Howard Community College students and faculty agreed Monday that condoms should be distributed on campus, but disagreed that they should be available from restroom vending machines and that students should face requirements to obtain them.
At a forum sponsored by the Student Government Association, some faculty members opposed an SGA proposal to make condoms available free to students at the Columbia-based community college.
"This is something the SGA really wants to do," said Michael Canet, vice president of the student government and author of the idea.
Canet said he polled approximately 50 students and faculty members informally and received overwhelming support, but heard opposition from a few faculty members after he wrote an article about condom distribution in the student newspaper.
The county health department began distributing free condoms in 1986 in response to Howard County's high teen pregnancy rate. But condoms are also being encouraged as a protection against sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, said Henrietta "Hank" Dahlstrom, a health department social worker.
One HCC administrator remains opposed to the idea.
"If we have free distribution of condoms here, we're promoting irresponsibility," said Vladimir G. Marinich, associate dean of instructional support services.
Faculty member Rebecca W. Mihelcic, associate professor of business, said she did not oppose condoms on campus, but definitely did not want to see them available in restrooms.
"You're sending a message that we condone (sexual activity), that it's OK to have it any time if they can get condoms just by slipping a coin into a slot," she said.
Students countered that if condoms are available only at public locations -- suggested sites include outside the SGA office, the counseling office and bookstore -- some students will be too embarrassed to pick up the devices.
"I know some people who won't go to the bookstore to get a condom," said Christian Mathis, a student from Columbia. "But in the bathroom, nobody knows but you."
Marinich proposed an educational requirement to receive condoms, but the idea got a generally chilly reception from students at the forum.
One female student supported an educational requirement, but others said they did not believe sexually active students would attend workshops, forums or classes to receive condoms.
"If you have to take classes, I don't think a lot of people will come," said Jenny Arnold, a student from Columbia. "They don't want to be preached to."
Canet said the SGA would include a brochure containing educational information about sexual activity with each packet of three condoms, if the HCC administration approves the distribution. He said other educational materials will be available on a table outside the SGA office.
The brochure and contraceptives will be packaged together "in a discreet brown wrapper," he said. Canet said the plan was not to require any student to ask for the devices, but to have them available in boxes for anyone who wanted to take a packet. The community college does not have a health center where the devices could be distributed.
The HCC administration needs to come up with a policy governing distribution of condoms on campus, said Robert L. Levene, associate dean of students.
Levene said his report to Dean of Students Walter G. Bumphus will say the consensus was in favor of condom distribution, but concerns remain about education and where condoms are placed.
New policies require the approval of the Board of Trustees, reported Randall R. Bengfort, public information officer. He said a recommendation could be presented at the trustees' next meeting Jan. 22.
Other nearby community colleges, except Montgomery College, make condoms available to students free of charge and with educational information.
Those schools do not require attendance at a course or seminar.