Condom clash!

Student groups, administration divided over role of contraception distribution at King’s: King’s College is a fascinating place full of seemingly tiny but truly important happenings for the members of its community, and this definitely felt like one of those happenings. That’s why I wrote this piece for the Watch, the University of King’s College student newsmagazine

It was intended to be a sort of Valentine’s Day gift: representatives of the King’s campus queer society, King’s PRIDE, said they had planned to give students a package featuring condoms, lubricant, and chocolate in their residence mailboxes.

But PRIDE got a surprise of their own when a member of residence administration removed the packages they’d distributed earlier that Sunday afternoon.

“I came back to Alex Hall to get my ID around 7 p.m., and they were all in a couple of bins on the floor next to the mailboxes,” wrote Jacqueline Vincent, co-president, in an email. The desk supervisor at the time “told us that the Dean had removed them,” Vincent wrote.

“I felt really confused about it,” said J.D. Hutton, PRIDE’s other co-president, who had originally thought the Valentine’s gifts would be “cute.” “Who could possibly be offended by condoms?”

Nicholas Hatt, the dean of residence, said that a few students had expressed discomfort at having been given condoms without soliciting them.

Some students “just don’t feel comfortable having them that upfront,” he says. “Your mailbox is sort of a personal space in a way, right? It’s about somebody sending something directly to you.”

Hutton sees this discomfort as a sign that more education needs to happen.

“When you’re younger, you still get a little giggly around the topic of sex, and it takes some getting used to, if you’re not around a culture that is very sex-positive,” he said. “A responsible society, from the student union to PRIDE, would be giving condoms out, and not making them have to go looking for condoms.”

Hatt says that condoms should be made available to students, but “our goal was actually how to distribute them to students in less invasive ways.”

He also believes that this policy of ‘non-invasive distribution’ should include eliminating the condoms usually handed out in King’s Frosh Packs during Orientation Week.

“This has actually been raised with frosh packs in past years,” he said.

In this case, the society and administration worked together to find a solution. “I met with [Hatt]… and we agreed that [residence staff] would put out a basket and I would talk to [the PRIDE executive],” Vincent noted. Residence staff then set out a basket of the kits in Alexandra Hall, available for students to pick up as they wished. PRIDE representatives also personally handed out the packages to students around campus.

Vincent thinks that the compromise was effective. “I’m pleased with the way distribution ended up going and I think that even without mailboxes, most of the residence students who wanted our materials got them. ”

She thinks it’s unlikely that PRIDE will press the issue. “The administration does have the final say.”

“While this situation may be a way of making us more palatable and protecting conservative folks from viewpoints with which they disagree… I don’t think that in this context we have the right to force it,” she wrote.

But for Hutton, the confusion still rankles.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that I have to give this interview,” he said. “This is King’s College, 2011. Condoms are not offensive.

“I’m just a little flabbergasted.”

While I generally editorialize in my writing and make left-field statements from unexpected angles, I’m also enjoying getting better at just…reporting facts, and trying to let them speak for themselves.

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