Students Distribute Free Condoms On Campus
One of the subjects in this article, Claudia Jackert, identifies as non-binary. As such, the pronouns used are: they, them, their(s).
UD students have the most sex on Thursday nights, according to sophomore political science major Claudia Jackert.
They tape an envelope to their door filled with 15 to 20 condoms accompanied by a sign that reads “take some.” On Thursdays, Jackert refills it three to four times, which is more than on Fridays or Saturdays.
While condom distribution is a common sight on some college campuses, many health centers at Catholic universities, including UD, do not give out sexual health protection. This inspired Jackert to start providing contraception to students at the beginning of this academic year.
“I need to put this out into the community, so people can start having sex safely because it’s not like they’re not [having sex],” Jackert said.
But they’re not the only one giving out free condoms in the community. Senior industrial engineering technology major Piran Talkington has distributed condoms since the 2016-17 academic year. He’s continuing the efforts of a graduate who worked with The Great American Condom Campaign (GACC) during his time at UD.
GACC annually supplies more than 1 million Trojan Brand condoms on U.S. college campuses, according to its website. Each semester, Talkington applies for his house to be a “safe site,” a place where individuals can get protection. Talkington said “safe sites” are prevalent on campuses where condoms are not freely and readily available, such as Catholic universities and certain community colleges.
The medical director of UD’s Health Center, Dr. Mary Buchwalder, said the university does not give out condoms due to the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on artificial contraception.
“As a Catholic and Marianist institution, we do not distribute condoms or provide treatment intended primarily for contraception,” she said.
The Health Center does provide certain sexual health services; a list can be found on the center’s webpage.
While Jackert began their initiative because the Health Center doesn’t provide condoms, they also considered UD students to have insufficient sexual health knowledge. As a first year, females in Marycrest asked Jackert their sexual health questions, partly because Jackert’s mother is a healthcare professional.
Jackert encouraged them to seek professional medical advice. However, many young women didn’t want to go to the Health Center. For some, it was because a sexually transmitted disease (STD) test would be billed to their parents’ insurance. Others, Jackert claimed, had bad experiences at the campus service.
“Some girls had gone and had been shamed by the people who work there for being STD tested, specifically,” Jackert said.
Often, Jackert would take friends to Dayton’s Planned Parenthood, where they could pay in cash.
The Health Center does offer a way for students to pay for an STD test without it being billed to their parents’ insurance. According to Buchwalder, students who have sensitive tests are asked if they would like to be locally billed, which means no charge goes on the student’s account or a parent’s insurance. Without coverage, a chlamydia DNA test would start at $35. The medical director also asked students who experienced judgment from Health Center staff for needing STD testing to reach out to her.
“Honestly, I’m horrified to hear that someone felt shamed by any of my staff,” Buchwalder said.
Before Jackert began distributing the condoms, they reached out to doctors and nurses with whom they were connected. The Illinois native also contacted students at Loyola University Chicago and DePaul University, both Chicago Catholic universities, who started similar initiatives on their campuses. The first batch of condoms distributed by Jackert was provided by Planned Parenthood.
Besides giving out the rubber contraceptive through the envelope on their door, Jackert has supplied to individuals in residence halls. Their friends have distributed condoms in other areas of campus. Jackert said they’ve given out several hundred condoms.
“I’ve had a lot of drunk boys in particular…knock on my door late at night and be like, ‘Thank you for doing this,’” Jackert said. “It’s really put me in contact with a lot of people I would never talk to otherwise, which has been kind of interesting.”
Talkington, in contrast, distributes condoms by filling a fishbowl and leaving it out during parties at his house. (He stopped putting the condom-filled fishbowl on his porch because individuals would steal the fishbowl.) He also dresses up as the Trojan Man for Halloween and gives out a full bag of contraception. The senior says he distributes up to 500 condoms each semester.
Jackert confessed they were surprised they’ve not received any form of disapproval from the university. According to them, several RAs have given implicit approval and agree with their actions and motives. Likewise, Talkington said he’s never been disciplined by Neighborhood Fellows for distributing condoms. There’s no rule in the 2018-2019 Student Standards of Behavior and Code of Conduct banning students from giving out condoms for free.
Nonetheless, condom distribution by students has been a sensitive topic at UD. The New York Times reported a conflict in 1990 between student groups with opposite opinions on the matter, which required UD President Raymond L. Fitz, SM (the namesake of Fitz Hall) to intervene.
Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which used to be a UD club, distributed condoms on Valentine’s Day in 1989 and 1990. Following the latter incident, students on the Campus Ministry Evangelization Committee requested the university stop the group from giving out sexual health protection. Flyer News reported DSA gave out condoms, which were provided by Planned Parenthood, again on March 28, 1990, in Kennedy Union.
The group was not removed because there was no policy against condom distribution. Nevertheless, Fitz, who still works for the university as a full-time faculty member, did not support the pro-condom students.
“Clearly, the University of Dayton, as a Catholic university, does not condone or support the distribution of condoms on campus,” Fitz said in 1990.
Additionally, the Boston Globe reported UD supported Boston College (a Jesuit Catholic university) in 2013 when it demanded students end their condom distribution initiatives. Other Catholic colleges that publicly agreed with the New England school’s decision included Georgetown University, Catholic University of America and Notre Dame. However, Notre Dame took no action in February 2018 when students distributed more than 1,000 condoms provided by Planned Parenthood on its campus.
If UD administration told Jackert and Talkington to stop giving out condoms, they think others would take their place.
“…I would fight it if they randomly told me to stop,” Talkington said. “I know plenty of people that could fill my place.”
“Regardless of whether I were to continue doing it…I would think, or at least hope, other people are aware of the issue with accessibility and would work to bridge the gap in the event I couldn’t keep doing it,” Jackert said.
Unless told otherwise, Jackert plans on refilling the envelope outside their door with condoms three to four times every Thursday night. And Talkington has no intention of switching his customary Halloween costume.
Photo courtesy of Piran Talkington.