University of Utah President Chase N. Peterson has rejected a proposal to sell condoms on campus, saying vending condoms would be making a moral judgment the university is not prepared to make.

"A state institution is not in the position to make moral judgments for faculty, staff and students," Peterson said, adding that decisions concerning sex should be made by individuals, not implied by university statements.Mike Kaly, president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah and former vice president Grant Sperry want to have condom vending machines installed in men's and women's restrooms in all three campus dormitories, the Olpin Union and the Social and Behavioral Science Building. The students say the administration's rejection of the plan ignores realities faced by today's students.

If the U., which is renowned for its medical sciences, placed condom vending machines on campus it would appear as an endorsement, Peterson said. Condom use, he said, is only the second best protection against the AIDS virus and it is not guaranteed. The university does not want to suggest their use is officially recommended or entirely safe. He said he dismissed the proposal on medical and legal grounds.

Kaly said the selling of condoms on campus is a moral issue that university officials are trying to avoid. "It became a hot potato kind of thing. The administration didn't really know what to do. It's an issue they'd never seen before. I feel we've been pushed aside."

Peterson said the university is not making a moral statement about the sale of condoms on campus, but a biomedical one.

"Medical science has proven that the best protection against AIDS is abstinence or a sexual relationship with a reliable partner."

He added that there might also be legal ramifications if an individual bought a condom on campus and then contracted AIDS.

Kaly claims the U. will not allow the sale of condoms because the administration believes it would endorse sexual behavior it considers unacceptable.

"I think it's completely a moral issue. I don't think it has anything to do with legal and medical aspects." He said the idea for campus condom vending machines was rejected when he presented it to Peterson several weeks ago.

"I thought that was pretty lame," Kaly said of the administration's reasoning. "The university sells pornography and cigarettes in the Union, and there are no legal ramifications. Condoms seem a lot less harmful than those items. We know cigarettes kill people."

Peterson said he is open to discussion, and the issue has been discussed by a campus committee on student health. The committee, he said, concluded that abstinence or sex with a reliable partner, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship, is the best way to avoid the deadly virus.

On this point, Kaly partly agrees. "Condoms are the best protection against AIDS besides abstinence." But because many students are sexually active, he said, condoms need to be readily available on campus.

The administration, however, has not completely closed the door on the sale of condoms on campus.

"If it's a good thing to do, we'll do it. If it's a bad thing, we'll resist it," Peterson said. For now, the U. will stand behind its current position.

That doesn't sit well with David Sharpton, director of the People with AIDS Coalition of Utah, who said by not making condoms available on campus, the U. is turning its head on a serious problem.

"They're dealing with an attitude that sex isn't an issue with those kids. But it is a serious issue."

He said the coalition supports students' efforts to have condom vending machines placed in campus restrooms.