MU holds forum on free condoms

The talk comes on the heels of a vote to support the measure.
Friday, November 3, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:54 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

MU students filled the courtroom at the School of Law on Thursday to listen to MU student representatives’ reasons for supporting distribution of free condoms in MU’s residence halls. Attendees voiced their take on the issue.

Many of the students in attendance at the forum said the university needs to have a reliable, safe, convenient, cost-effective and inclusive program for preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Some students presented their support for abstinence.

The proposal, initiated in September by Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and supported by the Student Health Center, was halted by MU Chancellor Brady Deaton on Oct. 10.

Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, moderated Thursday’s panel, which included a representative from the Missouri Student Association, the Residence Halls Association, the Legion of Black Collegians and a sexual health advocate peer educator from the MU Student Health Center. All of them supported the condom initiative.

Deaton attended the forum to listen to the students’ opinions on the issue, though he didn’t speak. Student Affairs plans to hold related discussions in coming months.

Davie Holt, a senior at MU and the MSA representative at the panel, said that MSA’s job is to follow up the issue with the administrators to make sure that students’ voices are heard and that the program is implemented.

“A realistic goal would be by next semester,” Holt said.

MSA passed a resolution supporting the condom initiative Oct. 25, with the backing of 11 MU student organizations.

At the panel, students in favor of the proposal stressed that because some college students are inevitably engaging in sexual activities, such a program would merely encourage safety.

In a 2005 MU Student Health Center survey of 6,000 randomly selected students, 75 percent of respondents said they were sexually active.

The Health Center peer educator at the panel, Alexandra Balzer, who is a graduate student in counseling and psychology, said that the program is health-oriented because it would provide educational material along with condoms.

Other concerns discussed were the higher rates of HIV and STIs among African Americans and the fact that students feel uncomfortable purchasing condoms.

Those opposed to condom distribution said that abstinence is the only safe measure and that the program would only promote sexual activity.

“They say it’s about promoting choice, but by that choice you sway them into having sex,” said Joel Rey, a junior at MU. As a community adviser of Laws Hall, he also expressed concerns that people would misuse the condoms, such as “making water balloons.”

Frankie Minor, residential life director, said that his office is following the direction of the chancellor.

“I think discussion is always a good thing, particularly when there is a difference of opinion,” Minor said.

Many MU students were informed of the forum through a Web site posting by Nick Trusty, MSA’s director of student activities, on the online Facebook network.

Trusty, one of the many students to speak at the forum, said that MSA started a petition Wednesday asking students whether they support the proposal.

“In less than an hour, we collected over 180 signatures,” Trusty said.

So far, free condoms are available at three spots at MU: the Health Center, the Women’s Center, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center.

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