University News

Campus ranks 5th in sexual health survey, gets 3.5 ‘GPA’

Contributing Writer
Friday, October 22, 2010

Brown ranked fifth out of 141 schools surveyed on Trojan Condoms’ annual Sexual Health Report Card this year, with a 3.50 sexual health “GPA.” Columbia took the number one spot, with a 3.70 GPA.

 Naomi Ninneman, health educator at Health Services, said she is not sure if Trojan does a “comprehensive survey,” since she said she only remembers receiving a survey for the first time two years ago. Surveyors Sperling’s BestPlaces and Rock the Vote could not be reached to comment on their methodology.

The Herald reported in 2009, when the last survey was released, that Sperling polls students and surveys the “quality and cost of sexual health resources and services at schools” using Facebook, questionnaires and evaluations of health departments’ websites.

Columbia’s Health Education is best known for its “Ask Alice” question-and-answer service. Ninneman said she and many other health educators across the country turn to this service to answer some questions they receive.

Brown climbed to fifth place from last year’s ninth, and Ninneman agrees that campus health education is “on the rise.” Brown has increased its ranking each year the survey has taken place.

“Each year we try to tweak and improve,” Ninneman said.

Changes this year include Residential Peer Leader workshops about sexual health, new guest speakers, a new manual — the “Little Brown Book” — and a new student group, the Sexual Health Awareness Group, or SHAG.

“Little Brown Book” provides information on resources at Brown, definitions and risks of sex and explanations of sex supplies. Zach Marcus ’10 wrote the pamphlet and SHAG plans annual revisions.

SHAG is a new group on campus that offers peer-to-peer counseling on sexual issues. The group offers a confidential e-mail question service, with “responses promised within one week during the semester,” according to its card.

“Ask us anything!” it proclaims.

The group is focused on community outreach. “I believe the ‘A’ in SHAG is really critical,” wrote Ben Winkler ‘11.5, one of SHAG’s founders, in an e-mail to The Herald. “Beyond being advocates for sexual health, we are trying to foment awareness of these topics.”

“Brown has a great deal of resources that are easily accessible for those who have the awareness and motivation to utilize them,” Winkler wrote. “What we are missing is an effective mechanism for bridging the gap between those resources and the student population as a whole.”

When asked about Brown’s sexual health resources, many students had little to say.

Representatives from Students for Choice said they thought Brown’s Health Services were accessible, and they had heard from friends that Brown’s gynecologists were good. The group co-sponsored Wednesday’s Love Your Body Day, “a day of celebration and a day to accept our bodies for what they are, whatever size,” Cara Mones ’11, the group’s co-president, told The Herald.

In regard to future improvements to Health Education and Services, Ninneman said, “the steps aren’t made in regard to the survey, but what will help Brown students.”

“Inasmuch as our sexual health work is inherently tied to a specific population, every college program must reflect the needs and desires of its students. The gold standard of sexual health is dictated by the unique situation of every college, not by Trojan,” Winkler wrote.

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