- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003


   A Virginia lawmaker and the president of James Madison University clashed yesterday about a sex-education festival held last month at the state school in Harrisonburg.
   President Linwood H. Rose defended the on-campus event, SexFest 2003, which included a demonstration of how to put on a condom.
   In a written statement, Mr. Rose said the April 26 program was a health fair intended to teach students about “safe sex.” He acknowledged that some people “have received an erroneous impression about the event because of its title, which is actually a misnomer.”
   Mr. Rose said the event was a “health-education program … where students could learn about sexual responsibility.”
   State Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Manassas Republican, however, said last night that Mr. Rose’s explanation didn’t pass the “blush test.”
   Mr. Marshall blasted Mr. Rose for not “providing better leadership” by allowing students to hold an event during which students tried to fit a condom on a fake penis while wearing glasses that blurred their vision to simulate drunkenness.
   “Do you really mean that to be fully educated, college students need JMU’s bawdy show-and-tell condom-and-fake-penis presentation? You will find a significant number of JMU parents and Virginia taxpayers dissenting from such a conclusion,” he said.
   Mr. Marshall said condoms and pamphlets were distributed at the event, but that abstinence was not promoted as an alternative.
   Mr. Rose acknowledged that abstinence was not promoted during the program, but said that brochures on abstinence were available. He also said it would be “extremely naive” to think that college students do not engage in sexual activity or drink alcohol.
   “In a perfect world, it would be nice to think that college students do not engage in premarital sex nor drink alcohol, but that would be extremely naive,” Mr. Rose said in the statement. “The important thing is that students are fully educated.”
   Mr. Rose also applauded organizers for holding a program that tried to teach students about “safe sex,” sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, rape and health topics such as prostate cancer.
   Mr. Marshall first questioned the event May 1, when he received a call from a constituent whose daughter attends JMU. Mr. Marshall sent a letter to university officials, asking them to explain why the event was held. Mr. Rose explained the purpose of the event in his statement yesterday.
   Students had mixed emotions about the event and the condom demonstration.
   David Clementson — news editor at the university’s student newspaper, the Breeze — said the condom demonstration was not necessary.
   “Seeing as JMU was picked as the 25th-best party school by Playboy magazine last November, I don’t think the students here need a whole lot of help with that kind of stuff,” he said. “That’s just silly. It’s not educational. it’s frivolous.”
   But Samantha Wood, student coordinator for Reality Educators Advocating Campus Health, which held the demonstration, defended the group’s actions.
   “What was promoted was sexual responsibility, be that through abstinence or condoms. It doesn’t promote sex. Talking about sex doesn’t make students go out and have it,” she said. “Ignoring something and not talking about it is only going to make the problem worse.”
   Miss Wood said the event was not sponsored by the university’s health center. Instead, a small group of students not affiliated with any school-funded group decided to hold the program and invited Miss Wood’s group and three others to attend.
   The group, which uses school funds to promote health issues on campus, is sponsored by the school’s health center.
   The other groups who participated in the event were Campus Assault Response, which operates the campus assault help line; Equal, a women’s rights group; and One in Four, an all-male group that provides information on assault and rape.
   Mr. Marshall has challenged sex-education policies and practices at Virginia public colleges and universities three times during the past three weeks.
   On April 20, Mr. Marshall sent a letter to the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors criticizing the school’s health center for dispensing the contraceptive pill known as RU-486 for 10 years before it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998.
   As a result, the school’s board ordered the health center to stop distribution.
   The same day, Mr. Marshall also criticized JMU for distributing the morning-after pill, arguing that it constitutes a form of abortion because it keeps an egg from being released for fertilization or changes the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilized egg from growing.
   The JMU Student Senate voted 54-6 to issue a bill of opinion supporting distribution of the pill. JMU’s Board of Visitors will consider the bill at a meeting next month.
   

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