Confusion surrounding St. Thomas University’s condom distribution policy has opened the door for the university to discuss student health.
In July, the Students’ Union made headlines after revealing that they weren’t allowed to include condoms in this year’s welcome week kits.
“The STUSU was originally told by residence life that we were not allowed to include condoms in welcome week kits,” said Ella Henry, president of the Students’ Union.
“When we asked for clarification, we were told it was the result of a campus ministry policy. We sent an email to the president of the university asking whether there was actually a campus ministry [or other] policy on the distribution of condoms on campus.”
Henry found out there is no campus ministry or university policy on the distribution of condoms on campus, but rather a longstanding practice.
“I thought that the time where the university would oppose the distribution of condoms on campus had passed. In my time at STU I’ve seen the university start to distribute condoms in residences for instance,” Henry said.
“I think what we ran into was the institutional remnants of a policy, practice [or] attitude within the university that no longer exists, but was never fully dealt with.”
Jeffrey Carleton, spokesperson for STU, confirmed that there is no university policy “one way or the other” about condom distribution on campus.
“It’s a practice that, the more we looked in to it, the more we saw a wide variation from year to year.”
In response, STU president Dennis Cochrane has formed a president’s advisory committee to look into the broad issue of student health.
This president’s advisory committee will provide Cochrane with advice on the issue of student health, including advice on condom distribution on campus.
Carleton said Cochrane wants the group to be advocates for student wellness on campus and “bring forward ideas on student-based education, action and events related to student health.”
The committee consists of Larry Batt, dean of students, Clayton Beaton or Kelly Hogg from residence life, Mike Eagles, athletics director, Patricia Eagan, UNB student health clinic manager, Dr. Rice Fuller, director of UNB counselling services and Anne Forrestall, executive director of student affairs and services at UNB.
Two student representatives and two faculty members, whose names haven’t yet been made public, will also serve on the committee.
A president’s advisory committee already exists to provide advice to the president on the budget. It traditionally meets in private, and Carleton thinks that this committee will meet in private too.
“But it’s a broad based representation so students should seek out any member of the committee if they want to bring their info forward,” Carleton said.
He added that the formation of the committee indicates Cochrane’s pro-active approach to student health.
“This is something that [Cochrane] has mentioned since he got here in January,” Carleton said.
“The fact that he’s made a presidents’ advisory committee really signals the seriousness he takes toward the whole issues of wellness and student health.”
Driving the formation of the committee is the $50 student health plan fee that will be introduced to students this year, Carleton said.
STU students use the UNB student health centre, but weren’t charged the $50 fee to use it in the past.
The Students’ Union will have an answer on whether they can include condoms in this year’s welcome week kits before welcome week starts in September.
Henry said that the Students’ Union “looks forward to working with the university to improve sexual health on campus.”
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