Freshmen who eagerly scoured the pages of their Harvard-issued “Empowering You” student planners may have come across a shocking description or two. The table on contraceptive information listed “messy” as a disadvantage of birth control pills, claimed that male condoms “may be embarrassing,” and said female condoms “may be unattractive.”
“After the planners were printed and distributed to freshmen, it came to our attention that there were a few printing errors,” Keli Ballinger, manager of the University Health Services (UHS) Center for Wellness and Health Communication, writes in an e-mail.
In order to quickly remedy these glaring mistakes and others (such as listing “periodic abstinence” as a form of contraception), the Freshman Dean’s Office e-mailed every freshman, instructing them to download replacement planner pages. UHS also received permission to distribute these replacement pages to all freshman mailboxes. Because upperclassmen had not yet received their planners, the new contraception table was included as an insert and the offensive pages ripped out. Now, the table refrains from comment upon the attractiveness and embarrassment factor of any contraceptive method.
After reviewing both the new and old tables, Kai T. Wu ’09 commented, “In my personal experience, I’ve never found birth control pills to be very messy, but I do know that this is a waste of paper.”
In order to evaluate whether the death of those trees was worthwhile, the question begs to be asked: does information provided in the student planner actually affect Harvard students’ decisions regarding parenthood planning or (as is probably the case) prevention? “We will have to defer the answers to the efficacy question until we evaluate it later in the academic year,” Ballinger says.
FM suspects that Harvard students don’t get enough action for this kind of mistake to matter.