Condoms might be available everywhere at St. Thomas University, in Fredericton, but a plan to hand them out to first-year students during orientation initially caused confusion over whether the university had a policy that prevented it. To clear up the misunderstanding, university president Dennis Cochrane struck a committee on student health that is expected to make a recommendation within days.
Update: Condom fiasco at an end
In July, the St. Thomas Students’ Union (STUSU) was told by Residence Life that they couldn’t include condoms in Welcome Week kits, alongside t-shirts, clip boards, and information about the campus. When STUSU sought clarification from the administration, it was discovered that no such policy existed, only a long standing convention, although condoms had been handed out in some previous years. It was also suggested to STUSU and reported elsewhere that the decision stemmed from the university’s roots as a Catholic institution, but the university denies that. Although the university originated as a religious institution, it is now a secular university.
Jeffrey Carleton, STU’s director of media relations, said the request to hand out condoms during Welcome Week was denied because condoms are available elsewhere on campus, including from a residence adviser, and because students have “more important” things to worry about during their first week. “Any student who wants [a condom] can just go ask for one . . . the feeling was that [Welcome Week] just wasn’t the appropriate time,” he said.
Student president Ella Henry says while condoms are indeed readily available, students might “feel embarrassed” about approaching a residence adviser for a condom. “It was about establishing a culture where safe sex is normal,” she said. “We have to recognize that students are going to have sex . . . They aren’t going to necessarily put that off.”
Although not all student unions distribute condoms during orientation week, it is widely practiced across Canada, including at the University of New Brunswick which has a Fredericton campus that is shared with St. Thomas.
The committee advising the president is composed of ten members representing various campus constituencies including four students. The committee will also make other recommendations regarding student health and wellness.