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Members of Ohio University's Student Senate, sit around a table during their meeting, Sept. 13, 2023.

Safer Sacks will return to campus

The Student Senate has decided to bring back Safer Sacks, or bags that offer several sexual health items, which are expected to be distributed in the coming weeks. 

The Safer Sacks will include personal safety alarms, nightcaps, pregnancy tests, condoms, lube and safety resources around campus. The amount spent for the items and the sacks was nearly $2,000.

Kennedy Huntsman, the women’s affairs commissioner, said the goal of the Safer Sacks is to facilitate overall safety on campus. 

“We really wanted to get things like personal safety alarms, and nightcaps out to students. We kind of built a project around those products,” Huntsman said. “It had so much success last year … so we're doing 200 (sacks) instead of the 100 that we did last year.”

While the Safer Sacks have been successful in the past, there has been some voiced controversy about specific items within the sacks.

Dan Gordillo, the governmental affairs commissioner, said it was brought to his attention several students felt uncomfortable with adding lube within the Safer Sacks. He said he was told students were uncomfortable using students’ money to buy sexual items and associate Student Senate with the items.  

At the Nov. 1 Student Senate meeting, Gordillo brought these concerns to the other members of the senate, which led to a discussion about what pertains to safety and well-being versus safe sex. 

“There were various arguments made for why sexual lubricant actually does promote student safety and therefore should be in it,” Gordillo said. “Then I made the argument that my constituents made, mostly saying we shouldn't be spending senate money on promoting something of that nature.”

The budget resolution to purchase every item for the Safer Sacks – including lube – was passed after some debate, but Huntsman said she was not surprised about the controversy regarding adding lube. 

“I know there has been a lot of backlash over the inclusion of lube, and it was a conversation that was also had last year, but given the feedback that we received from people (who) received the Safer Sacks, the lube was one of the number one items that people appreciated being in there,” she said. “It wasn't something that I was willing to let go of easily.”

Student Senate President Megan Handle was glad to see this conversation happening within the senate and to listen to students’ perspectives about the Safer Sacks.

“The fact that the discussion took that long, I was living for it,” Handle said. “We're meant to have difficult conversations and bring up things that are uncomfortable because that's how we know that we're hearing from students, and we're doing our job as representatives.”

Although Gordillo didn’t agree with everything being debated, he said he was glad to see students voicing their opinions to him as a representative. 

“I think I would’ve not even made a motion to talk about it if (students) didn't talk to me personally,’ Gordillo said. “I absolutely aligned myself with what other people were saying for having sexual lubricant (in the sacks), but I'm a representative at the end of the day. I've got to do my job and represent.”

There were some proposed solutions to satisfy everyone in the debate, such as a second wave of Safer Sacks during the spring semester, which is expected to be distributed during the Women's Festival on International Women's Day.

“Our treasurer is willing to essentially give us more money to do a second modified Safer Sack that doesn't include lubricant to appease people who feel as though we're not being inclusive of their beliefs, which is always exciting because that means that we get more resources out to students,” Huntsman said. 

Handle was one of the sponsors of the Safer Sacks project last year, and she said she noticed the same questions being asked this time around – including if some of the items are necessary for safety or just for safe sex – about the Sacks. 

“A lot of people see a difference between products like personal safety alarms, lubricants and condoms. Personally, I think they're both essential to the students and to their health and well-being,” Huntsman said.

Huntsman said the Student Senate is trying to be transparent about the products within the Safer Sacks while also being as inclusive as possible and making students feel comfortable taking these products.

“A big reason why we made the Safer Sacks was that all of these resources were going to be in one bag, and all you had to do was grab the bag,” Huntsman said. “There wasn't the stigma of having your friends see (you) reach for specific products or sexual resources that you wouldn't openly go for.”


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