Contraceptives and the Union

Cabbages and Kings

WHEN HARVARD STUDENT AGENCIES decides to sell sex, it can't be all good. But how bad can it really be?

Three weeks ago, John Gordon, the manager of HSA's concession stand in the Union, was all ready to go ahead with plans to sell condoms and vaginal foams at his place of business. He had already been given the legal go-ahead from HSA's lawyer, Harold Rosenweld, who opined that the proposed under-the-counter sales were legally aboveboard. HSA President Arthur Segel had cleared the way by announcing that the aforementioned items would be sold at cut-rates with no profits for HSA. And all Gordon needed to begin his magnanimous project was the high sign from University Attorney General Dan Steiner--who was reserving his judgment on the matter to allow mature consideration.

Steiner still hasn't handed down his decision, but in the interim all kinds of fun things have been happening: if the plan died today, it still would've been worth the trouble in comic relief alone. Newspapers outside Harvard who have been desperate for college pranks and riots jumped on the story as an unmistakably hot property. The Globe caught on right away, and United Press International followed, claiming that sales had already begun at the Union "news-stand." Then the Times converted the UPI dispatch into a judiciously subdued couple of inches--all this within two days of when the story first appeared.

Shortly after the UPI release a letter arrived at The Crimson from Los Angeles, along with a clipping about HSA from an unidentified paper. "I always considered Harvard a place of 'intelligence,'" the California Jeremiah wrote. "Not any more."

MEANWHILE, BACK AT HSA Gordon got a more down-to-earth message from one Mr. Fishbein, who had read about Gordon's plans in the Times. Mr. Fishbein, who represents Akwell Industries in New York, offered to supply HSA with his products in four models--prime, contour, black, and Tahiti. Gordon took the offer to heart and says the chances are good that he and Mr. Fishbein may strike up a successful business relationship.


In the last few days, a new obstacle has cropped up in the calculus from within the HSA hierarchy. Apparently, some of the faculty and alumni members of the Board of Directors among them Admissions Dean Fred Jewett have decided that these particular sales are an issue worth discussing at their next meeting. Jewett denies any personal reservations about the sales, but taking note of the "very catholic opinions" of the large number of people who eat at the Union every day. It's concerned that "people with some religious views might be offended" by the business.

Still, no university administrator has spoken officially against contraception in the Union. It might be a relief if someone honestly repulsed by the idea vented his opposition while the whole mucky issue is unresolved. Religious hesitations and debates over sexual freedom aside, there remain reasonable grounds for objecting. HSA is supposed, after all, to be the mercantile servant of the University. It's not performing any huge service by opening up this new line of goods at the candy counter, given the ready availability of the same things nearby. And HSA is, let's be frank, introducing that subtle element of sleazo-commercialism in the foyer of a building with an austere tradition, almost under the venerable antlers of Teddy Roosevelt and within range of the kindly gaze of LeBaron Russel Briggs. Anyone who feels the instinct to preserve whatever charms the Union offers unsullied might as well say so.

The one man who has expressed personal objections to the whole scheme is Freshman Dean F. Skiddy Von Stade, and he has conscientiously kept his remarks on the unofficial level. Von Stade has apparently raised the issue of the moral implications of University complicity in condoms and foam and the resulting responsibility for widespread birth-control. Unfortunately, he has also kept his remarks on a level that is either spectacularly naive or downright insulting to the sexual predispositions of freshmen and freshwomen everywhere. "It might reinforce the idea that it isn't a bad thing." Von Stade told one reporter apparently referring first to the sale of contraceptives and then to premarital intercourse.

IF THIS YEAR'S freshmen and women have any sense of dignity their time has come to reply to those who would measure the moral philosophy of students in the balance of a minor administrative decision on an HSA scheme. Since the last shaky parietals fell on some unnoticed night in late 1969, freshmen haven't even had to be discreet about their traditionally rampant depravity (which, it is commonly known is often combined with pre-marital contraception.) In this context the administration policy has been objectively pro-promiscuity.

HSA's recent entry on the scene won't change any episodes in the diaries of well-adjusted freshmen. And given the reality of centuries of Harvard adventurism--with and without contraception--the hesitations Von Stade implies verge on the splendidly incomprehensible. After all, with the Yard officially bi-sexual this fall it's really a little too late for anyone to turn back.