UNC students are trying to save the koalas, one condom at a time

By Molly Brice

At 8 a.m. on Feb. 8, UNC-Chapel Hill students stumbled out of their beds to make the trek to the Smith Center.

Most students wouldn’t be awake this early on a normal Saturday, but this was the Saturday that UNC-CH would face Duke University in basketball.

The Saturday that eager first-years and sentimental seniors wait for hours, covering themselves in blankets and oversized Carolina sweatshirts, in hopes of getting the best seats the arena has to offer.

Vasu Gupta and Maulik Sarin, are not waiting in line—they are breaking it, weaving between the masses of students. They dodge an employee golf cart to their right as they pitch their product to the students on their left.

“Me and my partner were nervous,” Gupta said, “naturally, because we were selling a taboo product.”

Organizations frequently attempt to capitalize on the rivalry to raise money, such as “pie a Duke student” or “destroy a Duke-blue car” themed fundraisers.

Gupta and Sarin, junior students at UNC-CH, have a new approach, an unconventional idea that no other organization has attempted with the Duke rivalry.

“Support your UNC family and donate for affected animals,” Sarin yells into the crowd, “all while trashing Duke!”

Condoms for a cause

Gupta and Sarin’s campaign, Carolina Condoms, sells condoms branded with anti-Duke statements to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund’s “Save the Koalas” initiative.

The condoms, individually wrapped in white packaging with bold Carolina blue lettering, have different cheeky phrases that play on the rivalry with Duke: “Too Cute to be Dook,” “Go to Hell Dook” and “Fuke Duck.”

“It’s all about jokes,” Sarin said, “you want to make it a light-hearted subject because some people think it’s taboo.”

Selling one condom for $2.99 or three condoms for $7.50, Gupta and Sarin hope to sell enough condoms to donate $2,000 to the WWF campaign. One dollar for each condom purchased goes to the campaign that helps animals affected by the Australian wildfires.

The pair chose contraceptives in hopes of not only raising significant funds for the cause but also tapping into a lucrative marketplace.

During a visit to his cousin’s Bank of America office, Gupta was introduced to an entrepreneur and civil engineer that manufactures condoms in the U.S., India and Thailand.

“Talking to him, we developed a similar wavelength,” Gupta said, “and the idea for Carolina Condoms started to grow in my head.”

After this initial spark, Gupta and Sarin, friends since their first year at UNC-CH, began the research phase. Hunched over their laptops, they searched the bounds of the internet, exploring motivations for condom use along with statistics on sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

Gupta and Sarin then questioned, “how can we turn around all of these to give back to the world?”

The pair strategically picked the Duke game for their first initiative, but they plan to develop the Carolina Condoms idea into a business that provides funding for different social issues. “As much fun as this is,” Sarin said, “we want to make it really work too.”

To buy or not to buy?

While the students distract themselves with card games splayed across the pavement, Gupta and Sarin are working, talking up their product and cause to anyone who will listen.

Martha Bennett is talking to her friends when Gupta and Sarin approach her. A couple with matching Michael Jordan jerseys glance away from the screen they have been sharing to watch the interaction.

Gupta holds the pair’s white poster board with pictures of koalas and condoms as Sarin explains the campaign to Bennett, another UNC-CH student.

“Sure, I’ll buy one,” Bennett says, “if it’s for the koalas.”

Sarin fans the condoms in front of Bennett for her to choose; she looks them over, laughing, and picks “Fuke Duck.”

“It’s a really great idea,” Bennett says, “to use the humor and appeal of sex to raise money for a good cause.”

Bennett comments that usually “the guys get the condoms” but likes that Gupta and Sarin’s efforts target the entire student body.

The students look to their friends, laugh and even pull out their phones to take a picture of the sign as Gupta and Sarin part the crowds.

Even though the condoms sold by Gupta and Sarin are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, some students express concerns about buying the contraceptives.

“I think buying condoms from anywhere except a box is stupid,” student Kelly Huben says, “because you are risking the potential that the condoms are old.”

Bennett also says she will most likely not use the condoms, which she considers more of “a novelty purchase.”

Other students, like Ben Stroud, say they would prefer to support the Save the Koalas campaign by donating directly to the WWF.

‘The greatest rivalry in college sports’ gives back

Eighteen to 22-year-old UNC-CH students make an ideal target audience for Gupta and Sarin’s campaign of selling condoms for a good cause.

“In North Carolina, and especially at UNC, we are looking for causes to support,” Gupta said, commenting on the student body’s interest in being responsible consumers.

The rivalry has inspired innovative fundraising campaigns beyond Carolina Condoms. For example, The Daily Tar Heel and The Chronicle, host a fundraising competition for each university’s respective newspaper in the weeks before the game.

Currently, the DTH has raised $33,747.51 and The Chronicle has raised $22,450.

It’s ‘the greatest rivalry in college sports’ for a reason. Once inside the Smith Center, you can hear the boisterous cheering, see the ocean of Carolina blue apparel and sense the elevated heart rates of the fans from every section.

Even before the tipoff, the students come together, clinging to their caffeine and huddling for warmth. For those hours, in between winning and losing, they are fans rooting for the same outcome.

Maybe, in those hours, between victory and defeat, they are more likely to strike up a conversation or even buy a condom from the stranger in line beside them.


Edited by: Ashley Mills