The official debate about free condoms in residence halls began Thursday night with an overwhelming majority of the speakers showing support for the initiative. Chancellor Brady Deaton halted the original plan because he wanted to hear more public discussion on the issue.
Deaton said he wanted to listen to the diverse viewpoints but declined to comment further on his original decision to stop the implementation of the plan.
The public discussed the proposal in the Law School Courtroom in front of a panel of four student representatives. Davie Holt of the Missouri Students Association, Jabari Turner of the Legion of Black Collegians, Justin Ginter of the Residence Hall Association and Alexandra Balzer of Sexual Health Advocates Peer Education.
Holt said MSA supports the issue because it is providing students with access to responsible behavior. Holt said the goal is to prevent and decrease the number of students that contract sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancies.
MSA conducted a personal survey Wednesday as members from the organization petitioned for student support and handed out free condoms, which were donated by Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
Holt addressed concerns with the plan, such as cost, staff and security of the condoms, but he said a significant amount of MSA senators voted in support of the proposal.
Turner said there was a lot of disagreement on the proposal that stemmed from a lack of information and knowledge. Phi Beta Sigma fraternity spoke to the LBC senate to explain the proposal.
"After getting a better understanding, the LBC definitely supports the plan," Turner said.
Ginter said RHA was also in favor of the proposal.
"We have a responsibility as a government to provide a safety measure to the students," Ginter said.
He said that though condoms are offered at other places on campus, they are offered only during business hours and not in close proximity. He said it was illogical and embarrassing for students to go to those places when they need condoms.
Ginter also drew a parallel between the condom plan and STRIPES. He said each could be a safety measure paid for by all students and used by those that choose to. STRIPES is the safe ride program at MU.
Balzer said SHAPE is dedicated to sexual health information for students and supports the initiative.
"We aren't promoting sexual behavior," Balzer said. "We're promoting choice."
After the members of the panel spoke, the floor was opened to the public. Multiple concerns were addressed, but the majority of the crowd spoke out in favor of the proposal.
Four Front Co-chairwoman Afton Anderson said there was no reason not to go through with the plan. Anderson said Four Front discussed a possible tamper-proof dispenser.
The means of distribution and preventing condoms being tampered with were two of the main issues addressed.
Residential Life Director Frankie Minor said the distribution process was something that was still being discussed at the time the proposal went public.
Alternative means of distribution were brought up, such as student mailboxes or the bookstore.
Ways to prevent tampering were also discussed, but no decision was reached.
"I think we're using tampering as a scapegoat here," CJ Okeke, Phi Beta Sigma member, said. "It could happen in any situation.
Embarrassment was cited as a reason for a more convenient way of obtaining condoms.
"People are afraid to step up and grab some condoms," Turner said. "It's a sensitive subject, and you don't need to feel persecuted."
RHA Vice President Greg Davis said that getting condoms before engaging in sexual activity is a rational idea, but that responsibility comes with anxiety.
"Anxiety is not a rational thing," Davis said. "The anonymity would lower the anxiety level."
SHAPE was called upon to provide educational information and free condoms to a further extent than it already does. Informational lectures and DVDs were mentioned as possible alternatives to providing students with sexual health information and contraceptives.
Diversity was an issue brought up in regards to minorities and women. Along with condoms, dental wraps and female condoms would be provided.
Turner said certain statistics regarding STDs in the black community were alarming and shocking.
In response to public e-mails and letters opposing the condom plan, one student said the complaints came only from parents and people outside of the university.
Senior Robert Wood was also concerned with the plan as a health issue, because of potential tampering.
"I'm not arguing the moral standpoint," Wood said. "I'm just concerned with the reliability of the condoms."
Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, concluded the forum by running through her final thoughts on the meeting. She said there seemed to be great support for the plan, but that leadership needed to find a reliable, safe, convenient, inclusive and cost-effective way of implementing the proposal.