The folks at the St Thomas University Students’ Union (STUSU) have been told twice this summer that they can’t distribute condoms in frosh kits.
At campuses across the country, student unions use welcome week to distribute information, giveaways — and tools for safer sex.
In past years, students at St Thomas have not received condoms in their kits, but Ella Henry, president of STUSU, wants to change that. She’s secured enough condoms through AIDS New Brunswick to include one in each of the packages distributed to first year students.
“It makes sense. It’s connected to other activities we do the rest of the year” on the subjects of sexuality and health, says Henry.
So far, STUSU has been blocked by an objection from Residence Life, Henry says.
“It’s university policy that we don’t put [condoms] in the welcome week kits,” says Kelly Hogg, a residence supervisor. Hogg directed questions to the school’s religious services branch, Campus Ministry.
Henry finds that answer troubling.
“It sends an interesting message about the university’s priorities when it comes to student health,” says Henry.
Janice Ryan, campus minister, says that while the university is a secular, publicly funded school, it’s rooted in Catholic history.
“It probably stems from the church’s position on contraception, but I can’t say that I know of a policy,” says Ryan.
That’s because there isn’t a specific policy banning condoms from the kits, says Jeffrey Carleton, director of media relations for the school. But he says it’s a longstanding practice and that it has nothing to do with Campus Ministry.
“We haven’t changed our practices at all,” says Carleton. “This is a very activist student union trying to stir up a controversy where there isn’t one.”
He says the reason that the practice remains is that no student has ever — to the best of his knowledge — complained about it. Besides, condoms are available on campus, he points out, and students needing a condom can pick one up from a residence advisor or proctor.
“The only one who has an objection to this is Ella Henry,” says Carleton.
That’s not true, says Henry, who points out that she doesn’t even sit on the student union’s welcome week committee. It was welcome week organizers, not Henry, that first proposed including condoms with other frosh material.
St Thomas University, located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, is a small liberal arts school with approximately 3,000 students.