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U.’s performance improves in Trojan sexual health survey

By
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Brown ranked 39th in a recent survey of sexual health resources at 139 American colleges and universities, up from 44th in last year’s survey.

The survey, called the Annual Sexual Health Report Card, was commissioned by the manufacturer of Trojan condoms and performed by research firm Sperling’s BestPlaces. Released Sept. 10, the survey gave Brown a grade point average of 3.09 – a B. Last year, the survey’s first year, Brown received a C grade of 2.1.

The increase is especially meaningful because last year’s survey surveyed only 100 schools.

Brown’s improved performance is more a result of the cursory nature of the survey, than of improvements in campus health programs, Health Educator Naomi Ninneman told The Herald. “It’s not like some big new thing exists,” she said. “We can’t compare last year to this year and say, ‘that’s something we did very differently.’ “

However, Ninneman added, this year’s result “felt more accurate” than last year’s.

Brown’s sexual health resources earned two A’s in the survey, for Web site and hours of operation. Brown received seven B’s – for a separate sexual health awareness program, the availability of contraceptives, HIV and STD testing, lecture or outreach programs, student groups and sexual assault programs – and two C’s, for drop-in appointment availability and anonymous advice through e-mail or a column.

Two of those grades are significant improvements over last year, when Brown received F’s in the contraceptive availability and anonymous advice categories.

The survey categories are based on what students need to be healthy, said Melle Hock, a representative for the Trojan brand. However, the survey did not contact individual students for their opinions. “You would need an overwhelming response” in order to have any statistical significance, Hock said.

Ninneman expressed concern that the survey might have overlooked some parts of Brown’s approach to sexual health. “We have a lot of questions about what this really tells us. I think there are some things that are more invisible that Brown does,” she said, mentioning table-slipping as a large part of Health Education’s outreach that surveyors might miss.

She also said she wondered whether surveyors knew about the sex advice columns that appear in post-, The Herald’s weekly supplement, and which Web site they were evaluating – The Health Services site or the separate Health Education site.

Questioning the B grade for contraceptive availability, Ninneman said condoms are “about as close to free as you’re going to get without being all the way there,” adding that students can take a condom from their RC’s door and then pay the 15 cents later, if necessary.

As for outreach programs, she said, “It seems like (sexual health) is pretty well woven into a lot of the other events and groups” on campus, like the male and female sexuality workshops, “which I think makes it harder for a surveyor.”

Student reaction to the survey was mixed.

“Everywhere I go, I see condoms on the doors of the RCs,” said Allegra Aron ’11, saying she was surprised at Brown’s B grade on contraceptive availability.

Paul Zhu ’11 disagreed. “At other schools, such as (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), they have free condom dispensers in almost every bathroom,” he said. “And there’s none of the weird guilt involved with taking condoms from somebody’s door.”

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