This fall University of Michigan students can grab a number of items in their dormitory vending machines: a pop, some chips, a candy bar and —the newest addition— condoms.
This is the first full year condoms will be sold in the dorms, although the contraceptive was first introduced in U-M vending machines in April 2013 but then removed during the summer because children bunk in the dorms for summer camps.
U-M —which was ranked the No. 6 most sexually healthy college among American universities by Trojan in 2011— will sell the condoms in 14 dorms on its Ann Arbor campus.
Peter Logan, head of University Housing communications, said students asked housing staff in 2012 to install free condom dispensers in dorm bathrooms. Housing officials weren’t sold on the idea of dispensers in the bathrooms, but eventually settled on adding condoms to the vending machine wares — and selling them for $1.
Carly Manes, an incoming U-M junior studying public policy, was one vocal student who advocated for easily accessible condoms.
Although they’re available for free at the U-M Health Service, sexually active students may be too shy to publicly ask for one or may not plan ahead and think to get them, Manes said.
“A lot of dorms hold freshmen and sophomores … who were having sex on the weekends and didn’t have access to condoms,” she said. “If that’s where you’re having sex, that’s the most convenient place to have condoms located.”
Selling condoms in dorm vending machines is not an unusual move for colleges — some began adding contraception to vending machines in the mid- to late-1980s. Schools like the University of New Hampshire, Vanderbilt University and Boston University all have vending machines that sell condoms.
U-M also places peer mentors in each dorm — students who are tasked with offering residents advice and access to resources. These students give out free condoms, but Manes said that shyness or busy schedules can prevent residents from asking their fellow students for condoms.
To help ease any awkwardness, some mentors place condom packets on their room doors. Yet Manes, who served as a peer mentor, said this is an imperfect solution — she recalls coming home to her hall and finding ‘condom balloons’ in the hallway and worrying that the free condoms on her door had been punctured or compromised.
“I didn’t really think it was an effective program … . A lot of people didn’t really,” Manes said. “It’s kind of uncomfortable to knock on a stranger’s door and ask for condoms.”
Yet having contraception readily available is something Manes felt strongly about, so she began approaching resident advisors and housing staff about somehow dispensing condoms in the dorms.
“[Without the vending machines] it’s much easier for someone to say, ‘All right, just this one time without contraception,'” Manes said. “As opposed to running downstairs and getting a condom.”