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ISSUE 117 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/3/2003

Controversy over condoms; Catching up with times

By Jared Wall
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 3, 2003

St. Olaf has finally decided to make condoms readily available at all hours of the day. A new policy has been instituted, and from what I hear, condom dispensers will be put in the bathrooms on campus. This policy is a far cry from having condoms distributed secretly via JCs and RAs, or picking them up at the Gender and Sexuality Center, which closes at 5:00 p.m. Why, it seems as if only yesterday that condoms were a dirty issue not befitting a conservative Lutheran college.

In a college in which we’re all virginal little angels who don’t drink, it seems almost surreal that such a public and controversial issue has finally been rectified. I say rectified because the lack of contraception at St. Olaf has been unnerving me. In this day and age, when it is a widely known and accepted fact that premarital sex occurs, it seemed as if St. Olaf was turning an ignorant eye on issues it simply did not want to acknowledge. The lack of condoms was not so much a stand against sex, but a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil stand against the contemporary issues facing today’s young people.

But not facing a problem doesn’t eliminate it. Far from it. By not recognizing certain issues, St. Olaf keeps many people thinking that the college is outside the sphere of the everyday corruption that they pray their children don’t partake in. Drugs, sex and rock’ n roll are all unheard of at this upright choir school, where kids listen to Beethoven, not Metallica, and have Bible studies, not keggers.

For the most part, that may even be true. Most onlookers see St. Olaf as a pure and goody-goody school. Many people at St. Olaf do abstain from sex and drinking, but many do not. And part of the responsibility to protect these students falls to St. Olaf: not by administering high-minded principles, not by imposing stringent rules and regulations, but by adapting to society instead of ignoring responsibility.

St. Olaf can only assist students with issues that face them today, like drinking and pregnancy, by taking an active role, not a repressive one. With contraception like the Pill and the shot making it very hard (though not impossible) for women to get pregnant, and making the administration of the medication ever easier (a woman need only get the shot once every three months), some women do not feel the need to use a condom in conjunction with other anti-pregnancy devices. This mentality plays a role in the spread of STDs and viruses, as well as pregnancy.

Instead of ignoring this issue, or addressing it from a holier-than-thou platform, St. Olaf would be better suited to see that the pill and other contraceptive devices be available through the school (the nearest Planned Parenthood is in Burnsville). Many women need to take the pill to regulate their cycles, lessen their cramps, clear up acne, and many other issues not related to sex. But St. Olaf can discourage premarital sexual intercourse as well as promote safety by means of contraception. We’re not going to cut down on STD numbers and premarital pregnancy statistics by asking students “What Would Jesus Do?”

Attainable and campus-wide condoms are a step in the right direction, and St. Olaf is showing positive signs of progress. But we haven’t quite reached the pinnacle of what we can do to ensure the happiness and safety of the student body. Sticky policies and conservative superiority are hindering the progressiveness that St. Olaf needs to become a true “liberal” arts college, and I pray that the changes will come while I’m still here. Otherwise, St. Olaf is just a conservative arts school, one of the few and ignorant, trying to stem the tide of modernity even as the winds of change bury it in the past.

Contributing Writer Jared Wall is a sophomore from Sioux City, Iowa. He majors in English.

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