When most people run for student government, they run on platforms like “greater transparency” or “increased communication between government and students.” Now, I‘m not saying that those things aren’t important, but I wanted to do something different.
In my eyes, Central Student Government representatives are student advocates, and as student advocates, we must work with University administration to ensure that students are getting what they need within the parameters we’re given by the institution. When I was a freshman living in the residential halls and a Peers Utilizing Leadership Skills for Education sexual educator, I saw a need for an increase in sexual health services on campus. Each night in East Quad Residence Hall — back in the good old days — I would tape condoms to my door, and when I woke up the each morning, only the dry pieces of tape and a lowly sign advertising condoms remained. It became apparent that PULSE representatives alone weren’t meeting students’ contraceptive needs.
There are condoms free of charge all over campus. There are a handful of student groups, such as Sexpertise, Students for Choice and PULSE that hand out condoms throughout the semester. Any weekday, you can walk up to the second floor of the University Health Service building and pick up as many lubricated, un-lubricated, ribbed or female condoms as you like. Although I believe that these are excellent resources on campus for students, they’re simply not accessible. Students need condoms on Saturday at 2 a.m., later that morning while waiting for a hangover to pass or on Sunday afternoon post-Angelo’s. Students’ sexual activity doesn’t revolve around the hours UHS is open, or when student groups are handing out free condoms in Mason Hall. Students need to have condoms accessible to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because that’s when life happens.
That’s where I come in.
I started the “condom project” several months ago when I realized this urgent need. One in four college students has a sexually transmitted infection. We need to recognize that we’re not immune to herpes or gonorrhea. Having condoms in the residential hall vending machines gives students access to contraception if or when they need it. I began talking to administrators and residential hall councils in November and December. Although I was receiving positive affirmations from residential hall leaders and students, I had a hard time getting the administration and the Residential Hall Association on board. After months of meetings and presentations, I had made little ground on turning this project into a reality.
When I ran with forUM for a CSG representative seat, my peers and running mates helped to re-affirm my faith in this project. I became more dedicated and steadfast in my request, unwilling to take no for an answer.
So when I ran, I told you I would get it done. And I did.
While those small little white boxes that are marked $1 in your residential hall vending machine wasn’t what I imagined for the implementation of this initiative, it’s a start. I will continue to work with administration to lower the cost of vending machine condoms, advocate for their placement in all vending machines on campus and negotiate to ensure quality contraceptives are available at your convenience.
So, next time you’re stumbling into South Quad Residence Hall at 3 a.m. or just happen to be looking for a midnight snack in Bursley Residence Hall, hit up the vending machines. Be sure to grab some condoms, a Pop-Tart and renewed faith in your student government, because we get the job done — safely.
Carly Manes is an LSA sophomore.