Mechanical issues delay free condoms in residence halls

Thursday, February 26, 2009 | 12:08 p.m. CST; updated 11:31 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 26, 2009

COLUMBIA — Only a month after condom machines were installed in six MU residence halls, mechanical problems put the two-year-running free-condom initiative on hold yet again.

One of the dispensers installed in December was removed less than a month later and sent back to Quality Condom Vending Ltd. Canada for modifications. The boxes containing the condoms and sexual health information pamphlets were jamming in the machines.

"The machines haven't been working in a way that the products have been available to students," said Susan Even, director of the Student Health Center. "It's been frustrating."

As reported by the Missourian in September, the Missouri Students Association opted to use boxes instead of bags to contain the condoms when the bags were getting stuck in the machines.

Once the dispenser, taken from Gillett Hall, is reinstalled and determined to be functioning properly, parts will be sent to the university, and residence hall maintenance staff will make the necessary adjustments to the other five machines, according to Even. She said the dispenser should return "very soon."

Even said that the dispensers were custom-made and designed to distribute more than condoms. Machines also dispense female condoms and lubricant. She said that as with any design that has never been used before, there has to be a "trial period" to find out what problems exist.

In order to help keep the dispensers working, Even said maintenance workers affiliated with the residence halls will be trained to fix the machines.

The road to make free condoms available in the residence halls has been long and rocky. The fraternity Phi Beta Sigma proposed the plan in September 2006, but a month later, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton rejected the plan. After reading report from the MU Difficult Dialogues Program on a series of forums held on campus, he approved the concept of the initiative in December.

Finding the money to pay for the machines was another problem. The change from bags to boxes cost the Residence Halls Association an additional $950. MSA had to donate $8,900 to pay for the dispensers when the Residence Hall Association could not pay. Details were finalized and condom dispensers were installed in Gillett, Mark Twain, Center, Bingham, Lathrop and Wolpers residence halls in December 2008.

Free condoms can be found elsewhere on campus, including at the Women's Center, the Student Health Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Resource Center.

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Trevor Hicks February 27, 2009 | 1:04 p.m.

It's always good when universities try something like this. It's unfortunate that it hasn't worked properly yet but hopefully they'll work out the kinks and the students will have access to the machines again.

On a lighter note, check out Durex's new condom promotion - superheroes!

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