Student Health Services expands condom distribution, institutes new policies

Amanda Verdi, Contributing Reporter

Condom dispensers will soon appear in many residence halls on campus in accordance with a new policy implemented by Tulane Student Health Services.

The dispensers will be located in Wall Residential College, Paterson House, Irby House, Mayer Residences, Warren House, Weatherhead Hall, Josephine Louise Hall and the Barbara Greenbaum House at Newcomb Lawn. Cara McCarthy, a health educator for the Center for Wellness and Health Promotion, said access to condoms in these residence halls has typically not been as prevalent as in some other residence halls on campus.

“We really wanted to bring access to some of the other halls that maybe didn’t have that common access or that common room,” McCarthy said.

The dispensers will be relatively small, holding roughly 200 condoms of one type, along with educational materials including information on how to use a condom and how to turn a condom into a dental dam. Director of Student Health Scott Tims said the condoms will be replenished regularly.

“The plan is right now that we’ll refill them on a weekly basis and we’ll see how it goes,” Tims said. 

The policy was initiated because of the efforts of students who campaigned for greater access to condoms in residence halls, including a member of Undergraduate Student Government, according to Tims. McCarthy said the condom dispensers are made possible by a partnership with Housing and Residence Life.

“After hearing from enough students that they wished that they had the access that other halls did, we decided to work with HRL and it just kind of went from there,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said the condom dispenser initiative may evolve based on usage and feedback during its initial implementation, and nothing is currently set in stone in regards to location or operations.

“We started with these first eight, and it’s a process to get them up and get them running, [making] sure that we can maintain them and everything,” McCarthy said. “But we’re going to see how it goes and definitely listen to student feedback about these to see if there’s a way we can improve the process or other locations that may serve our students better.”

TheWELL generally distributes about 70,000 condoms and 10,000 packs of lubricant during an academic year on campus. Tulane is consistently ranked among the best universities in regards to sexual health for its students. McCarthy said Tulane is unafraid to talk about sex and encourages safe practices in all sexual encounters.

“We know that for some people it can be a challenge, or there still might be some stigma around talking about this or getting these things, so we want to make sure that there’s really very few barriers to protecting yourself and staying safe – no matter what kind of sex you choose to have, if you choose to have sex,” McCarthy said.

Student health leaders on campus recognize that while many students will be in favor of the new policy, some will not support the implementation of condom dispensers. Somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of Tulane students are abstinent, according to Tims. Some of those students oppose the distribution of condoms for personal or religious reasons. Tims said the initiative is not meant to offend these students.

“We’re not forcing them on people, but we’re making them so that those who want them have access,” Tims said.

Along with the new dispensers, the old methods of obtaining condoms on campus will still be in effect and available for students to utilize. Any student or organization can order condoms through TheWELL’s website, pick them in person up at TheWELL or stop by the Student Health Center.

Free Condom Fridays, which have historically been located in Bruff Commons, are shifting to a mobile distribution this year. Golf carts will be dressed up as the “love bug,” and safe sex supplies will go out into the Tulane community on a much larger scale. There will also be giveaways for those choosing to abstain, including candy.

There will also be a new policy of free STI testing every Friday instead of just intermittently throughout the semester.