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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


SMU jumps 10 spots in college sexual health ranking

SMU came in at #112 out of 140 schools on Trojan’s “Sexual Health Report Card Rankings,” a 10 point jump from 2012.Photo credit: Ellen Smith
SMU came in at #112 out of 140 schools on Trojan’s “Sexual Health Report Card Rankings,” a 10 point jump from 2012.Photo credit: Ellen Smith

SMU came in at #112 out of 140 schools on Trojan’s “Sexual Health Report Card Rankings,” a 10 point jump from 2012.Photo credit: Ellen Smith

The conversation on sex is nothing new to college students across the country.
Neither are conversations on healthy sex. But many students, including those at SMU, find their university isn’t doing enough.

“I was verbally misdiagnosed as having an STD [by the SMU Health Center] in January of my second semester of college,” said Madison*, now an SMU sophomore. “When my test results came in and confirmed I only had an outbreak of shingles, and not an STD, the Health Center made no effort to contact me beyond a phone call and failed attempt at a voice mail.”

Not knowing that she did not, in fact, have a sexually transmitted disease, Madison spent the semester afraid to confront her possible health issues, causing her “inordinate amounts of stress” and the fear of having a non treatable disease.

“I ran away from the issue…until the end of the semester, when I knew I had to…face the fact that the answer might be positive,” Madison said. “Only then, after four months of living with the possibility of having an STD, did I receive the news [from the Health Center] that I had tested negative.”

For Madison, the resources for on-campus sexual health are anything but effective. However, the Health Center said its stepping up the efforts to change this.

“Students need to be informed so that they can make informed decisions on their sexual health,” said Lisa Joyner, assistant director of SMU’s Health Education.

SMU has expanded its health education over recent academic years, including annual HIV/AIDS testing, and condoms readily-available for anonymous pick-up daily in the health center.

“Some students may decide to be abstinent, and some may decide to have sex,” Joyner explained. “Knowing information about contraceptives and different sexually transmitted infections is important.”

So how does SMU compare to the sexual health resources at other schools? Trojan Condoms released its eighth-annual “Sexual Health Report Card Rankings” in November. Of the 140 schools that made the list, SMU came in at 112–up ten spots from 2012.

Trojan’s ranking system relies on the research surveys completed by Sperling’s Best Places, which used both a 2-page questionnaire filled out by the university’s health center and research into information readily available to students to determine the scoring.

“It’s trying to celebrate the schools that are doing the best jobs getting information out the the students so they can make their own decisions,” said Bert Sperling, lead researcher. “[It] presents an unbiased look at the kinds of information [health centers] provide to the students.”

Sperling explained that the information gathered for the rankings is useful not only to health centers for their own improvement, but to students and parents as well.
The rankings set up a comparison of schools, allowing current and prospective families to see what a particular university excels in, and what higher-ranked schools offer that could improve the initial university.

“Students are actually going to the administration in certain cases [to petition for greater resources],” Sperling said. “It’s great for parents…knowing that their students are safe and getting well taken care of.”

Trojan initially began the rankings program 8 years ago to spark “dialogue and [inspire] action” at universities from all regions of the country, as well as acknowledge the concerted efforts of health centers at the ranked universities.

“We continue to see great strides made on campuses nationwide,” Mark Gromosaik, a Project Manager at Trojan said. “Students and faculty [are] using the Sexual Health Report Card as a tool to shed light on the sexual health resources available to spark change on campus.”

Trojan’s rankings and results saw the addition of online resources for the 2013 Report Card, including an E-Tool Kit featuring “fact-based insights, tips and resources,” as well as a Virtual Consultant–sexual health expert, Trojan Sexual Health Advisory Council member and Yale alumni Colin Adamo.

“We wanted to take the conversation a step further by not only shedding light on the amount of resources provided to students on campus,” Gromosaik explained, “but also offer them tools to help them increase their future ranking.”

Trojan hopes to continue to grow their own sexual health resources available to students nationwide, regardless of their own on-campus opportunities. Whether their school is ranked first, as Princeton was for 2013, or did not make the cut of the top 140 schools, any college student with access to the internet can educate themselves and their school’s health centers.

“We’re always looking for new ways to leverage the [rankings] to better quip students with the information they need,” Gromosaik said. “We look forward to providing [these] valuable [tools] for college students for many years to come.”
SMU jumped ten spots in a single academic year, but it still has a long way to go before it could reach the number one spot.

“For the last two years, [the sexual health page] has been ‘under construction,'” Sterling said of the SMU Health Center website. “[Correcting that is] something [SMU] can do to improve its ranking.”

According to Joyner, the health center’s Education department is currently updating its website, and is expected to be fully up to date by the 2014 spring semester.
While the website may not be a worthwhile resource for students right now, Joyner explained that the focus has been on one-on-one interaction with students looking for sex education.

“Our biggest push has been in the residence halls,” Joyner said. “[As well as] students coming in to meet with me to talk one-on-one regarding sexual education and preventative measures they should take.”

Madison, who lives in one of the on-campus residence halls, said she has not seen these options in her dorm. For her, one of the biggest issues in the dorms is the absence of condoms.

“Nobody is going to walk over to the Health Center to get a condom, especially not a Lifestyles, which are notorious for ripping,” Madison said of the university-provided protection. “SMU needs to provide high-quality condoms to all of its students.”

Alex Day is an SMU Junior and intern at Dallas’ Planned Parenthood; as part of her internship, Day works with sex education and distribution of resources and information at events. In her opinion, advertisement and transparency are both essentials that the university needs to increase.

“I think the services [the Health Center] provides to students should be publicized better,” Day said.

Many students who might not live in the dorms could be seeking just as much sexual education as those on-campus students who are actively sought-out. The webpage has been unavailable for two years, according to Sperling, and this could be leaving students–those uncomfortable approaching Health Center advisers on their own–without any resources provided by their own university.
Tori Titmas, an SMU junior, echoed Day’s sentiments.

“I haven’t seen or heard much about the Health Center promoting sexual education on campus,” Titmas said.

If the sexual health education’s online presence is, in fact, improved for the spring term, the university could see an increase in the number of students taking advantage of university resources–and SMU could become more competitive with high-ranking schools currently winning out in sexual health.

“It would be good to have an online reference point for all of the resources available,” Madison said, “[especially for] students who may be struggling with a new STD, an unwanted sexual encounter, or even what they do it they find themselves pregnant.”

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