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Kits on Campus

Dr. Jack Turco sits behind a microphone with a stern facial expression and holds up a "Safe Sex" brochure to the camera.

Dr. Turco presenting at the campus panel.

Back on campus, students were curious about the kits after hearing news of the Donahue segment. Shortly after the show aired, Dick’s House organized a panel on campus entitled “AIDS and Safer Sex: An Open Forum.” Dr. Turco, Stone, and Do all reprised their roles. Also present were Beverlie Conant Sloane, Gwendolyn King of the Tucker Foundation, Dr. Joseph O’Connell from the medical school, and professor Douglas Yates. Feedback collected from the panel showed overwhelming student support for the kits. One student wrote, “I think it is an impressive step taken by the college to address a very serious issue which threatens our society… I’m pleased that Dartmouth has chosen to educate the community, all facets of the community.” Another asked if the kits could be made available for employees in addition to students. Yet another expressed that though they personally didn’t engage in the sexual practices described in the ACHA pamphlet, but “if it helps keep one person from contracting AIDS, then the brochure is worthwhile.”5

Many students also criticized the Review’s perspective. One respondent asked “What are Debbie Stone’s credentials regarding AIDS? Doesn’t it just legitimize the Review by inviting her to a Nathan Smith-sponsored discussion?” Others questioned why Professor Yates was invited to the panel entirely, pointing out that he had no background in health and simply served as a second conservative voice.

Interestingly, students largely found the controversy over the kits to be unnecessary or overblown. Common Sense, a campus publication, reported on the ‘sex kit controversy’ in their year in review issue of 1987. They described the atmosphere on campus after the kits were made available, saying:

“After registration, little was mentioned of the safe sex kits. Sexual activity did not skyrocket, and Dartmouth morality did not plummet. The issue of the kits, if it ever was an issue, was put to rest. Then, the press got a hold of it. Before many students even knew the contents of the kits, TV’s Bryant Gumble and Phil Donahue were discussing ‘water sports’ and ‘rubber dams.’ Within a week, alumni in California knew more about the situation than students in Hitchcock."

Common Sense

The article concluded by calling the kits a “non-issue” on campus. Taking a step further, the satire magazine the Jack-O-Lantern even joked about the moral debate created by the kits. One article spoofed the ACHA pamphlet, while another gave a ‘how-to’ guide on scaring one’s parents into liquidating their assets in fear of moral civilization’s collapse.

Even if students were joking about the controversy, they were still talking – largely positively – about the kits. Ironically, it was the Review’s initial push back against the kits that raised this newfound interest. For the first time, AIDS and safer sex became a mainstream topic of campus discussion. To capitalize on this opportunity, Beverlie Conant Sloane expanded the College’s AIDS prevention programming. The Health Education office organized speakers, campus radio and newspaper public education spots, library educational displays, and talks at residence halls. Dr. Richard Keeling, the director of the ACHA AIDS task force and a health educator at the University of Virginia, visited Dartmouth twice in 1987. His initial spring visit was sparsely attended, reminiscent of the early forums organized by Dick’s House. However, by the following fall, there was so much interest in his visit that the lecture became “standing room only.”6


5 “Evaluation of AIDS and Safer Sex Panel,” 1987. DA-8 Box 7482, " Health Education – Safe Sex Kits – Dean’s Subject Files ‘86-87." Dartmouth College, Dean of the College records. Rauner Special Collections Library, Hanover, NH.

6 “Question of AIDS testing at Dartmouth Stimulates Debate,” 07 October 1987. The Rutland Herald. DA-667, Box 10427, “AIDS ACHA Policy/ Protocol 1985-90 Health Services Subject File.” Dartmouth College, Health Services records. Rauner Special Collections Library, Hanover, NH.

From the Archives

Click on an image to access the full document, audio-visual components, and/or metadata associated with that item.

Safe Sex in Cook Auditorium

A video clip of the AIDS and Safe Sex panel.

Safer Sex Update

The Jack-O-Lantern satirized the ACHA pamphlet found in the Safer Sex kit.

How Getting a Safer Sex Kit can help Mummy and Daddy Pay Your College Bill

This Jack-O-Lantern article pokes fun at the moral panic caused by the safer sex kits.

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