NEWS ASST. EDITOR
Soon, Whittier College students will have an even easier time getting a hold of condoms for safe sex. Junior Bobbi-Marie Mendoza has partnered with the Office of Residential Life and a few local organizations to bring condom dispensing machines to Whittier College’s residential halls. Mendoza hopes that the machines will have the effect of dramatically reducing the risk of infection through sex at Whittier College. “This is a public health push,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza’s quest for safer sex began at her internship with the Whittier Rio Hondo AIDS Project (WRHAP). She got the idea for improving condom access at Whittier College while speaking to her Ionian society sister Kimberly Gray. Mendoza brought the issue to WRHAP’s executive director, Elizabeth Mendia. Mendia got Mendoza in touch with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which donated the equipment as well as 40,200 condoms. For Mendoza, access to the condoms was a key factor.
Mendoza next reached out to Assistant Director for Programs Joe Melendez. Melendez was excited from the moment he heard of the idea. “I’m always open to students reaching out to us with ideas for programs and services,” Melendez said. Melendez dealt with the heavy logistics involved in bringing the condom machines to campus. According to him, the dispensers will ship on Monday, over Spring Break, and will be installed within two weeks of their arrival. Melendez is still in the process of determining how many dispensers will arrive at Whittier, but Mendoza confirmed that there will be at least 15 of these devices. Residential Life hopes to install at least a few in each residence hall, however. The machines will be completely free to use, and be continuously stocked with fresh condoms.
Students had nuanced reactions to the news of the dispensers. Although most were appreciative of the efforts to combat unsafe sex, many feared that the initiative will only be used by those who already practice safe sex. First-year Nicholas Hanshiro raised points about the potential efficacy of the machines. “If you don’t want to use a condom, you probably won’t even if the machine is there,” he said. “It’s gonna improve convenience, but I don’t think that many new people will use it.”
“I think it’s great since it promotes safe sex,” first-year Olivia Lynch said. “But it also seems like it condones sex, which might not be a good idea for everyone.” Melendez acknowledged this concern, but his perspective was that Residential Life has the duty to give students the tools to remain safe. “It would be silly of us to think that sex doesn’t exist,” Melendez said. Melendez did bring up one concern that gave him pause, however. According to him, many who are in the know regarding the machine’s existence fear for the maturity of students using it. One example is the fear that students will simply waste the free condoms. He remains optimistic, however. “It is my hope that this program will be taken seriously, so that we that services like this can continue,” Melendez said.
Despite doubts, many are excited by the prospect of a safer sex culture at Whittier College and a potentially lowered risk of infection.