Last week, Student Association President Lamar Thorpe announced that a Student Association initiative will provide condoms in freshman residence halls. While some have derided the program as promoting sexual promiscuity on campus, making free condoms available to students will more likely encourage them to have safer sex.
The SA’s program recognizes a well-known fact: college students are sexually active. Students with ready access to condoms might choose more often to engage in safe sex, but will not necessarily choose to have sex more often.
The Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, released in September, ranked GW 16th in the nation in terms of sexual health. The University did score high in informational and outreach aspects of sexual health, but scored comparatively lower in more physical sexual health services – getting “Cs” for HIV/STD testing and sexual assault services and an “F” for condom availability.
Thorpe’s condom program, as well as his initiative to provide free HIV testing for students, directly counteracts the areas lacking in GW’s sexual health policy. While the informational aspect of sexual health is necessary, other concrete programs that can have a direct impact on student health should follow. The SA also deserves praise for focusing on tangible initiatives that directly benefit students.
The program, as it exists now, only provides condoms in freshman residence halls. The reason is obvious; freshmen are less experienced in college life and may be prone to making poor decisions at the end of a late night. Regardless, the SA should strongly consider placing condoms in all residence halls. While all students should take responsibility for their own sexual health, placing condoms in every residence hall will ensure that the opportunity is available to make better choices about sex.
Placing bowls full of condoms at the front desk of each residence hall does raise perception concerns. It may appear that administrators are actually promoting sex in the halls, or may make a student who is not sexually active question whether everyone else is engaging in sexual activity. Visiting parents or other adults might also look unfavorably upon the program because of the location of the condoms.
To combat this perception, the program’s administrators should find a more discrete location for the condoms, making them less prominent to dorm visitors and more private for the students who utilize the program.
The residence hall condom program is a positive step toward improving GW’s student health. A few changes would make it even better.
A good start
After only a month, the SA, under the direction of president Lamar Thorpe has had some concrete success. Thorpe has been able to get two of his campaign goals accomplished – providing free HIV testing for students and making free condoms accessible in the dorms.
Last spring, when Thorpe ran for SA president, he campaigned partially on the goal of expanding sexual health programs on campus. He, along with his colleagues in the SA, are showing students who voted for him as well as skeptics that he can accomplish his goals rather quickly.
Last year, disorganization and partisanship plagued the SA, leading to the inability to achieve tangible results. Late last month, Thorpe announced that he would not be lobbying GW’s Board of Trustees for a student representative, citing the fact that the SA must prove itself to be a serious group before it can receive enough respect from the Board to get a representative. With its accomplishments so far, it looks like the SA is on the right track to doing just that.