By Cindy Liu and Kelly Yu
Every year, the freshman packs include things that students will only look at once, throw in the closet, and never look at again. Deep down in the bags, an innocent freshman used to find condom packs supplied by the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO). This year, the infamous condom packs were missing.
Included with one Lifestyle and one Trojan condom was literature about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and safe sex. According to Associate Dean and Director of CPO Jenny Hwang, “We are focusing on providing condom packs in contexts where there is opportunity to provide educational information about safer sex practices.” Replacing the mandatory condoms in the packs was a voluntary event, “Condom Casino,” in which students gambled with condoms that could be exchanged for prizes. One girl left with flip-flops.
CPO, an on-campus organization, devotes itself to educating and promoting the general well-being of the individual. Their services include counseling for students, education through faculty and student peer educators, and advocacy services. In addition to education, they provide condoms for other non-CPO events, such as RA-organized activities for campus residents. The condoms provided come in boxes of 1,000. It costs $62 for a box of Lifestyle and $90 for a box of Trojans. These boxes are given to groups seeking to organize events that will in some way educate students about responsible sex. Students can obtain free condoms through school-and RA-sponsored events; however, finding condoms otherwise is more difficult than one might think. When asked, “Where would you go to get condoms on campus?” the average student answered, “The vending machines at Kelly Dining or the Student Union.” However, these vending machines are not always stocked, nor are they accessible to students who may live farther away (such as Tabler, Roth, and H quad residents). The Student Union closes at midnight, and it seems very unlikely one would make the run to the vending machines to pay $1 for only two condoms. The prices for condoms on campus vary. They range from $1 for four at the Student Health Center pharmacy to $2.49 for three at the Seawolves Marketplace. These rates pale in comparison to other SUNY schools, such as SUNY Oswego, which sell ten condoms for $1.
CPO runs the program Choosing Healthy Options In the College/Campus Environment (C.H.O.I.C.E.), which specializes in training peer educators to advise other students on matters of physical wellness, including sexual activity. According to Kathleen Valerio, a previous instructor for C.H.O.I.C.E, “the topics covered were related to physical health – cancer risk awareness, safer sex, and overall health and wellness, which included nutrition.” However, this semester, the new instructor for C.H.O.I.C.E., Ellen Driscoll, will be teaching a new curriculum. This new curriculum will focus on addiction and sexual assault. They will integrate sex into situations involving substance abuse and assault, but do not mention if they will also talk about healthy sex practices, such as contraceptives. According to Kathleen Valerio, “We had to find a better way of addressing student requests in a more effective way…Statistically speaking, addiction and sexual assault will have a greater impact upon student life in the here and now.”
A focus on safe sex is put aside for a focus on alcohol and substance abuse in the context of rape and sexual assault. This shift in focus potentially leaves students unaware and unprepared for other sexual situations.
There are also other opportunities for students to obtain condoms in their buildings. RAs organize building programs in order to educate their residents on many different issues, such as safe sex. When asked, an RA from Eleanor Roosevelt Quad said that he had heard of two different sex education programs during his time living in ERQ. “The one that I went to was about STDs. We put candy in a bag, depending on the candy we got, that was the disease you got. Then the RA would tell us what the disease was and what to do to prevent it.” Also, when asked about condom distribution in his building, he replied, “It’s nonexistent. Sometimes we have them readily available,” but it is at the individual RA’s discretion. One RA makes little packets of condoms and leaves them for her residents to take; however, not all residents in other buildings or quads are as resourceful.
With the inconsistency of condom availability on campus and the amount of education provided for the student body, one is forced to wonder how responsible the university is for providing means of safe sex practices. Stony Brook’s sex education is like an unused condom: available, but ultimately wasted.