Details of condom proposal shifting

Fewer dispensers or a fee for condoms are being discussed.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:13 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A proposal to distribute condoms and other sexual health products in MU residence halls is nearing completion, but concerns over the cost, safety and feasibility have led to considerable changes in the plan.

Members of the committee crafting the proposal — which originally called for making free condoms available in every residence hall bathroom on campus­ — are now considering a smaller number of dispensers and charging a nominal fee for each condom.

If the proposal is accepted, the machines are expected to be in residence halls by the beginning of next school year, said Frankie Minor, MU’s director of residential life.

Minor and Heather Eastman-Mueller, from Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education, met with the Student Leadership Advisory Council last Thursday to discuss some details about how the plan would be implemented.

“What kind of products do we put in residence halls? Where do we put them? What’s the mission?” Eastman-Mueller said.

The committee is still trying to find the money to get the proposal off the ground. Minor said he hopes the task force will be able to turn to the student groups that backed the original plan for financial assistance.

“One of the things we need to find out is: Does that support translate into financial support?” Minor said.

Most of the cost of the program will be incurred in getting it off the ground by fall, Minor said. The original plan called for condoms to be made available in a basket or some other low-cost receptacle in every bathroom on campus, Minor said at the advisory council meeting.

But at public forums to discuss the plan held last semester, students raised issue with that delivery method. Protecting the integrity of condoms is a major concern and has forced MU to turn to more expensive dispensers that discourage tampering.

“That drove us in a very different direction,” Minor said.

So did the higher cost of outfitting each residence hall bathroom with a condom machine. The current proposal may be limited to only one distribution machine in every residence hall on campus, or, in some instances, one machine that would be shared by several residence halls that are near each other.

The task force is also considering charging students 25 cents for each condom. On one hand, a fee might discourage people from draining the machines. On the other, a fee could discourage people who need a condom from purchasing one, Minor said.

Andrew Cafourek, vice president of the Missouri Student Association, said a fee, no matter how nominal, could be a problem because students rely on credit and debit cards. “I can’t remember the last time I used cash,” he said.

The proposal will require posters and fliers near the distribution machines, Eastman-Mueller said. The posters will include questions for students to ask themselves before engaging in sexual activity, such as, “Are you ready for sex?” “Have you had enough time to think about your decision?” and “Are you sober?”

The posters are intended to prompt students to think through their decisions related to sexual health, Eastman-Mueller said.

The proposal is scheduled to be sent to Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor for student affairs, for final approval by the end of the semester.

“This is just a proposal,” Minor said. “There’s no guarantee that this will happen.”

A portion of this report first aired Monday during “News At 10” on KMIZ/Channel 17 ABC, Columbia.

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