At Drew University in New Jersey, the school’s student health services department decided to cut one of the staples of many modern college health centers: the free condom service.
The health center staff said the service was being misused by students who would try to take the entire basket at once. The actions of those few, however, should not be enough to warrant the elimination of a program that should be an accessible part of every college’s student health services.
Though services such as these provide solid resources to students, they are only a small part of maintaining a healthy environment on campus. In order for a university’s attempts to maintain students’ health to be truly successful, students must have the initiative to take advantage of these resources on their own.
Services such as the one cut at Drew University are a welcome resource to students trying to save a few bucks. Others appreciate the anonymity afforded to them by being able to pick up condoms at the student center rather than purchasing them at the store.
Here at USC, for example, the University Park Health Center provides a space known as the Resource Room, where students can go to pick up free condoms, as well as to find more information on personal health or to talk with a peer health educator. In freshman dorms, the residential advisers often have their own buckets of free contraceptives available to students — no questions asked — in an effort to encourage new students to embrace safe-sex activity.
However, some students I talked to still said they would not feel comfortable walking to the health center to get condoms, even if they were free and available with no questions asked.
Others said they would not want to get condoms from their R.A. if it meant having to go into the R.A.’s room in order to get them. A few students said that their R.A. leaves several condoms in an envelope taped to the outside of his door, and that this was a much more comfortable option.
Still, it ultimately comes down to the students themselves to practice safe sex no matter what method they go about it — especially for freshmen, many of whom experience independence for the first time in college and might come in expecting the glorified, free-wheeling collegiate social life. A conscientious effort must be made to stay within certain healthy boundaries.
According to an article published in the Journal of American College Health in 2009, 80 to 90 percent of college students are sexually active, yet only 26.4 percent of these students reported always using a condom. Additionally, students who engaged in heavy drinking — defined as five or more drinks on one occasion — were less likely to always use condoms than those who didn’t.
Although the social environment of college contributes partly to students not always practicing safe sex, they still need to make the commitment to their health. Truthfully, the “party culture” that some attach to college life should not be an excuse to engage in risky behavior.
Movies and television shows might portray college students as ‘round-the-clock partiers, but such an overblown stereotype is really not entirely accurate. The majority of students are mature individuals who have the level of responsibility necessary to enjoy themselves while still staying within certain boundaries. Most know that safe sex is important — it’s just the execution that needs work.
This is where the university can work with students to encourage healthy and responsible action. According to the previously cited article, only 36 percent of students reported having received information about sexually transmitted disease prevention from their college and 23 percent have received information about pregnancy prevention.
This isn’t high school. We’re all adults — there is no need for mandatory sexual education courses or anything along those lines. There is, however, still an important role that university health services can play in further educating students about safe sex.
The Resource Room at the health center does provide information about sexual health, but little is done to advertise these resources to students. The health center also provides rapid and anonymous HIV testing, but again, little is done to encourage sexually active students to get tested.
The university does have these resources available, however, and ultimately it is the student’s responsibility to have an interest in his or her own health. From information to prevention to practice, students have the necessary tools to enjoy themselves while still staying safe.
Jared Servantez is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism.