Condom Week tries to keep it clean

by Beacon Staff • February 6, 2008

Between Feb. 11 and 15, they will be hosting events around campus to recognize National Condom Awareness Week, which is recognized by the American Social Health Association to promote safe-sex education.,At a school with roughly 3000 undergraduates, Emerson students know first hand that size doesn't matter. The class of 2009, however, wants to make sure we understand that protection still does.

Between Feb. 11 and 15, they will be hosting events around campus to recognize National Condom Awareness Week, which is recognized by the American Social Health Association to promote safe-sex education.

Representatives of the class started the events during National Condom Awareness Week last year, and hoped at the time that they could make it an annual program. According to Grace Konrad, the current president of the class of 2009, the class council had been looking to host an event that would reflect on a national issue.

"We thought that creating programming that would be fun and educational for students in regards to condom awareness week would be a great way to do something new on campus," said the junior organizational and political communication major in an e-mail to The Beacon.

This year, according to organizers, the focus has been on creating a program that students would find both entertaining and informative.

"The biggest goal for the overall week is to educate the campus in regards to this truly important issue, while also having the students enjoy themselves at the same time," said Student Life Staff Assistant Christopher Serwacki, the advisor for the class of 2009, in an e-mail.

This year, they added a panel discussion, entitled "Tackling the Taboo: Media, Spirituality, and Condoms." The senator for the class of 2009, Alli Bizon, a communication sciences and disorders major, said the panel will help extend interest to students who are more concerned with politics and debate. The discussion will revolve around how sex impacts American culture and how it is portrayed in the media, schools and religion. At the time of publication, the panelists have not been finalized, but according to Konrad, the committee plans on including representatives from Health and Wellness, the Center for Spiritual Life, the political communication department and the student body. The discussion will take place on the third day of the program, Wednesday, Feb. 13.

The kickoff event, on Monday, Feb 11, will be a screening of the film Knocked Up.

"We wanted to show something that was a target for our generation, but that also shows the mishaps that can happen," Bizon said.

The screening will be followed by a presentation about the underlying themes of the movie by speakers from Healthy Options Peer Educators, which is a volunteer group of students on campus who plan fun and educational events to promote health and wellness among their peers.

The second night will be an encore of a popular event they included last year: a game show event modeled somewhat after "Jeopardy!" At the event, students will be tested on their knowledge of contraceptives. The trivia is followed by a physical challenge in the form of a relay in which contestants wear beer goggles and race to the end of a hallway, where they have to put a condom on a fake penis.

"I'm looking forward to trivia night," said Konrad. "Last year, we had a great turnout and people had a lot of fun."

In spite of this claim, however, there are some students who feel that hosting these events is unnecessary at a college level. Troy Abruzzise, a writing for film and television major and contributor to The Beacon, thinks sex education is a worn-out topic.

"An awareness week should bring something new that I haven't heard before," the freshman said. "[Sex education] has been shoved down our throats for seven years. While I appreciate the effort, I don't know what impact it will really have."

Serwacki admitted he, too, thinks it is most important at the middle and high school levels, because "that is the time that more and more teens are becoming sexually active." However, he still thinks it's important for college students.

Freshman Kelly Burnett, a print journalism major, also expressed the concern that this should really be done for younger teens.

"It is definitely a good thing," she said "because if people don't have information, they'll make ignorant decisions."

According to the American Social Health Association, about half of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections are contracted by people between the ages of 15 and 24. Throughout the week, there will be representatives at a table outside the dining hall giving out free condoms and educational guides.

All those condoms took no small effort to get. According to Bizon, the class went to a lot of places asking for donations of condoms to give away, but because of the lack of funding for sex education coming from the government. The cash question is one of the issues they hope to raise awareness of through this program, especially during the panel discussion.

"This issue I feel has dropped off the radar," said Serwacki. "You would think with increasing coverage of teenage pregnancy and the fact that AIDS hasn't gone away, this would be important. Sex education needs to be a focus, in my opinion, so that these numbers drop."

The final event, on Friday, Feb. 15, will be entitled "Ending the Week with a (Protected) Bang." What it entails is under strict confidentiality, though it is said to involve a former Emerson staff member and a lot of sex jokes.

"I think it is important for students to have access to information they might not want to find out about on their own," Konrad said. "And if we can provide answers through our programs, then that is what we are looking to do."

Despite his skepticism, Abruzzise commends the group for that goal.

"If it inspires people to use contraceptives," he said, "that's great, because I'm all for safe sex."