AT SHOP, located in the Cowell Student Health Center, students can purchase a variety of condoms, dental dams and lubricants. Photo by Daniel Green
AT SHOP, located in the Cowell Student Health Center, students can purchase a variety of condoms, dental dams and lubricants. Photo by Daniel Green

Correction: City on a Hill Press has updated the year SHOP began from 1965 to the correct year, 1985, in SHOP Director Meg Kobe’s quote below.

Next week is Valentine’s Day. It’s also national condom week. Enter the UC Santa Cruz Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP).

“Hooking it up”

“We say we’ve been hooking students up since [1985],” said director of SHOP Meg Kobe. Their traveling condom co-op, where a variety of condoms, dental dams and lubricants can be purchased at radically reduced prices, sets up their Eight for $1 table somewhere on campus everyday.

Sales spike before weekends and especially, Kobe said, before any holidays that may involve high amounts of drinking, such as Halloween, Cinco de Mayo, Saint Patricks’ Day and Valentine’s Day.

“It’s not a hard [sell],” Kobe said. “What is hard is trying to facilitate different requests for the Condom Co-op.”

Due to high demand, the Co-op and its sibling, the Sex Booth — purveying sex toys, books and erotica to promote healthy communication surrounding sex — may be tabled by any willing student volunteer.

“I order 15,000 condoms per quarter,” Kobe said. “That’s pretty consistent.”

Setting up SHOP

“If you work on a college campus — I don’t care if it’s in the dining hall or in counseling or as a professor — our jobs are to help students be academically successful,” Kobe said. “Student health, while not often talked about, gets in the way of achieving that.”

With three professional staff, four chancellor’s undergraduate interns and a throng of student volunteers, SHOP runs on the funds generated by Measure 8 student fees, the budget of the student health center and grant money.

Prior to the early 2000s, student health outreach at UCSC surfaced in three separate offices: alcohol and drug use, sexual violence prevention and safer sex education.

“We don’t live in a box — these issues intertwine with one another,” Kobe said of their eventual merger.

Caitlin Stinneford recently moved across the country to become the new sexual violence prevention coordinator at SHOP.

“We’re creating a safer space for people to come forward,” Stinneford said. “My whole job is to give people options … not to tell [them] what to do. I want to make sure people feel they can always come and have a real conversation about how they can make the best decision for themselves, no matter where they are coming from.”

Hitting all the Bases

“We use sex to sell anything in this country, but when it comes to actual sex, we’re in the dark,” Kobe said. “The phone calls and emails I get — it’s just astounding to me that in the age when you can supposedly google anything, people just want to talk to somebody and find an honest answer.”

Kobe said SHOP owes its continued success to their reliance on research.

“One thing that puts SHOP on the map is that we really, really use data and try to collect data,” Kobe said. “We don’t just pull it out of the air.”

SHOP administers the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) every other spring, a randomized survey that tests for a wide variety of health indicators.

“It gives us really robust data,” Kobe said. “But we don’t just keep it for ourselves — we share it with [the Office of Physical Education and Recreation] … we share it with Counseling and Psychological Services … we share it with the dean’s office — and whenever we do anything, we collect data on it.”

The issues and the people facing them are dynamic, Kobe said. The concerns of yesterday have been elbowed out of the foreground by today’s aggressively changing environment. According to the 2010 NCHA survey, overuse of technology surfaced as a serious drawback to student health.

“Now that seems to have plateaued,” Kobe said. “Now, mental health — stress and depression — are becoming a main concern and I anticipate it will continue.”

Kobe said SHOP is striving for diversity and working to become more inclusive in its outreach efforts.

“[Enrolling] more and more first generation students — where their family may have not been able to prepare them for the realities of college life — makes it super important that we maintain moving forward and increase our impact,” Kobe said.

With the aid of technology, such as AlcoholEdu, has increased SHOP’s presence, Kobe says the real work is mastering communication when one-on-one conversations with every student are not always possible.

“That’s kind of the unsexy part of SHOP,” Kobe said. “But there are competing demands for resources, so I want to make sure that people know all of this is backed up by serious research.”


National Condom Week Events


SHOP has planned a week-long Valentine’s day event series, in line with National Condom Week. All events will take place from 12 – 3 p.m. in the Quarry Plaza.


Monday: A “Where have you had safe sex on campus?” map will give students bragging rights regarding their safe sexual exploits.

Tuesday: In collaboration with the students from the class Biology of Aids, SHOP will pass out a zine on safer sex and healthy communication.

Wednesday: Students will have the opportunity to get their photos professionally taken beneath an archway of condom balloons and roses.

Thursday: In a condom couture fashion show, student models will sport the latest latex trends. In addition, 1,000 free condoms will be handed out.

Friday: In addition to prize giveaways, students will be able to learn about safer sex and STI’s through a fun and interactive game.