Some Marquette students decided to promote safe sex the day before Valentine’s Day by handing out condoms to those walking on the public sidewalk outside of Raynor Library. Marquette University does not provide contraceptives through its medical clinic — including condoms — because of its identity as a Catholic institution.
Marquette should consider changing its policies about contraceptives. By offering condoms to students, the university would be performing a public health service by helping stop the spread of STIs. This would demonstrate that the university cares about all parts of its students’ health and well-being.
This change would certainly pose a challenge for Marquette. Some other Catholic universities, including Loyola University, Creighton University and DePaul University, also do not provide contraceptives to their students. Marquette has the opportunity to set a positive precedent by taking this step and possibly having an influence on students and administration at other universities as well as their own. Normalizing the use of condoms for public health benefits is needed.
Some students who attend Marquette may have not received thorough sex education in high school and may not know about the importance of contraceptives. Giving students condoms initially through the medical clinic could help students understand that they need to use them in order to safeguard themselves and others from STIs.
The Marquette University Medical Clinic does offer STI testing, which is a helpful resource for students. That being said, the university should offer a way to avoid the STIs it tests for. For students who contract certain STIs, it is a necessary preventative measure to give condoms after a diagnosis in case the patient chooses to continue being sexually active.
In an email, university spokesperson Chris Stolarski said, “The university would never approve a student organization event with the stated intent of distributing condoms.” The university should give student organizations the opportunity to provide condoms at their own discretion, especially with the medical clinic’s current policy. This would further prevent students from contracting STIs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 20 million new cases of STIs occur yearly in the U.S., with half of those cases involving individuals aged 15 to 24. The age range of university students and the newfound freedom universities give leaves students susceptible to STIs. The university should keep this in mind when deciding to provide contraceptives to students.
It is important that students take control of their own health and be responsible if they choose to partake in sexual relations. There are certainly stigmas surrounding sex — especially at a Catholic, Jesuit university — and students may feel embarrassed going to the store to purchase condoms. If students are able to go to the medical clinic and get condoms, it may take away some stress and worry, empowering students to take control of their health. It would also show students that the university cares about and doesn’t stigmatize their sexual health.
The university should re-evaluate the way it approaches sexual health and the spread of diseases. Although the university isn’t promoting diseases by not providing contraceptives to students, it could be doing more to prevent them.
Marquette should take this step to promote the importance of sexual health for students on campus. Students shouldn’t have to worry about their health being in danger when certain diseases are preventable with condoms that could be provided by the medical clinic.