No rubbers sold at Newman despite health fears

January 28, 2010

A Catholic college is holding firm to its ban on condom dispensers on campus despite students' long-expressed concerns about sexually transmitted diseases.

Newman University College, Birmingham does not allow the machines out of respect for the teachings of the Catholic Church, which forbid contraception.

But in recent years, concerns have been raised about the health implications of Newman's stance.

The minutes of an extraordinary meeting of Newman Students' Union in 2007 note the "presence of sexually transmitted infections in halls", which led to "a discussion as to the lack of condom machines in Newman".

The issue was revived at a meeting of the student council last month.

Minutes of the meeting show that the question of dispensers was cited as an example of an issue to be aired at an "all-students forum".

However, Ben Nicholas, the union president, told Times Higher Education that the membership had not discussed the matter further.

Newman College was founded in 1968 by the Catholic Education Council as a centre for teacher training. The institution now offers a wide range of degrees.

Peter Lutzeier, who took over as principal this month, said that "while our students come from a diverse array of backgrounds, as a Catholic university college, and in common with other Catholic higher education institutions, we respect the teaching of the Catholic Church.

"Consequently, we do not install condom machines on campus."

He added that the college "cares deeply" about its students' welfare, including their sexual health.

"To this end, we work closely with the students' union to raise awareness of sexual health issues and ensure that all students have access to information and support."

Newman's policy is not universal to all Catholic higher education institutions. St Mary's University College Twickenham follows the same approach, but Leeds Trinity University College allows condom dispensers on campus.

"Our Catholic ethos means our community is characterised by respect for all human life, and we care about our students' welfare," a Leeds Trinity spokeswoman said. "The students' union has a condom machine."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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