At the health clinic at USF, students can attend programs on herpes, HIV and oral sex, and prenatal care. The school will help to educate you on the effects of gonorrhea, the different stages of syphilis. They will even provide you with counseling if you become pregnant. But if you simply go looking for a condom, well, you are not going to find one.
The unfortunate part of this situation is that merely providing students with access to protection could drastically lessen the need for all the counseling and information on campus about how to tell if you have contracted an STD.
As a Jesuit university, USF follows the Catholic views on sexual activity. As such, while the school offers many educational programs on topics to encourage sexual health, it is not surprising that the school itself does not provide students with easy access to contraceptives. Its programs are meant “not to promote the use of contraception, but rather to help those who choose to be sexually active” according to the USF Health Clinic webiste. And yet, I don’t believe that if the school chose to offer students protection they would appear to be promoting sexual activity or would cause an increase in sexual activity.
Believing that making access to condoms easier for students would somehow magically cause a rise in sexual activity on campus is like believing that if you put on a sun dress and flip flops, it will magically stop raining outside. Sexual activities go on without the school giving out condoms, and they would still go on if the school decided to help keep its students safe by providing condoms. USF would not be promoting pre-marital sex; it would merely be promoting the priority that it has for the health and welfare of its students.
Now, I am in no way suggesting that the school should put up candy dispensers filled with colorful condoms in the lobbies of all the buildings. I’m not trying to paint a picture of a campus strewn about with contraceptives or a Health Promotions Services office dropping them in the backpacks of every person walking by. What I am suggesting is a discreet program that will be made known to students so that they are aware that they have an option. This can be done in a tasteful manner, emphasizing that the school is merely promoting health and safe sex for those students who choose to be sexually active.
While the Catholic tradition and all of its views should be respected, USF still has a responsibility to the health of its students. It is not enough for the school to provide programs that exist simply to inform, or programs that deal with sexual consequences after they happen.
USF offers preventative programs for many other aspects of students’ lives like eating disorders, binge drinking, and drug use. Sexual activity on campus should be treated with the same attitude and goal – to prevent dangerous situations before they happen by preparing students to the best of the university’s ability – even if that includes handing out condoms.