Valentine’s Day ‘condom caper’ promotes safe sex on Calvin’s campus

‘When she first heard about the condoms in the library, Carla Hotz thought the Hekman Library, where she works as head of access services, had been pranked. Instead, an unknown person or group had distributed hundreds of condoms all across campus for Valentine’s Day.

The condoms were set up in little bowls and displays in many campus bathrooms.

“Use protection. Get tested. Safe sex goes beyond preventing pregnancy,” read the notes attached to the condoms. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” the notes wished students. The papers had what at first glance looked like the Calvin seal, but at a closer look reveals a parody of the seal.

Hotz explained that both she and the campus safety officer who came to get the condoms suspect whoever did it placed the condoms the night before. But as of yet, no one in Calvin’s administration knows who did it.

Kyle DeWeerd
A handful of condoms found in the library’s bathroom.

“The ‘condom caper’ was an interesting way to start the day on Valentine’s Day. No one was (or is) aware of the source of the displays in many restrooms on campus,” explained dean of students John Witte. He confirmed that the actions were not authorized. Calvin supports saving sex for marriage in the student conduct code, and therefore would never give out condoms to students, he explained.

“While we appreciate the sentiment that sexual activity should be ‘safe,’ both from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, we’d add a bit to this narrative, as you can guess,“ Witte said. “Our best advice, taken from God’s best advice, is to place sex safely within the covenant of marriage.”

This is not true for all surrounding schools. At Grand Valley State University, condoms are sold in the campus store, and free ones are given out at a few offices, according to GVSU senior Madeline Van Reese.

“I’m a resident assistant and my staff has planned quite a few programs that include talking about relationships and sex this year,” Van Reese explained.

Many were concerned when they first heard about the condoms, including a Facebook group for Calvin parents. Screenshots of a post concerning the condoms from the private page were soon shared publicly on Twitter. Some parents were concerned the college endorsed the condoms. 

“Parents care deeply about their student’s experience at Calvin,” explained Susan Buist, Parent Relations Coordinator and admin of the facebook page, “and when they send their student to a Christian college, they have high expectations for the type of community and values we will cultivate here.”

She noted the post also sparked discussions about “whether or not it was appropriate to share unconfirmed stories or sensitive topics via Facebook.” The post has since been taken down, she confirmed, after the private post became a part of public discussion.

“It felt like our private parent conversation had become a topic of public gossip, and I removed the thread to quell that,” she said.

Though Calvin doesn’t distribute condoms, it does encourage dialogue around the topic of sex.

“We do want to promote honest conversation, education, and accountability around this important topic,” Witte said. Calvin offers a few programs on human sexuality, like the Sexuality Series, lectures and sermons during LOFT. Witte pointed out the college has an approval process for messaging on campus, “no matter the topic; and why we generally don’t allow outside groups to do this type of messaging within our community.”

Witte explained that Calvin aims to address such topics from a Christian lens “in a way that stays true to our values and commitments.”

It appears not all Calvin students agree with this worldview. As soon as Hotz and her staff found out about the condoms, they removed them — later handing them over to campus safety — and Hotz said she noticed an interesting trend.

“In the women’s [restroom] altogether, we probably had like 50–60 of these,” Hotz explained, but in the men’s restrooms, aside from one on the fourth floor of the library, “there were very few condoms left. There were like three.”