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Staff question drop in Rice's sex health rank

By Brooke Bullock     11/1/12 7:00pm


Following Consent is Sexy Week and released just before Night Of Decadence, Trojan Sexual Health Report Card dropped Rice University from No. 48 in 2011 to No. 65 in 2012. 

"The Trojan Sexual Health Report Card is an annual ranking of the sexual health resources and information available to students on campuses nationwide," the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card press release states. 

141 schools were graded on 11 categories, including health center operational hours, condom availability, HIV and STI testing availability and website usability and quality, according to the press release. 

Director of the Wellness Center Emily Page said she doubts the scientific method and accuracy of the survey because neither she nor Director of Health Services Dr. Mark Jenkins were contacted. 

"Jenkins contacted me when the ranking was released and said he had not been contacted," Page said. "When I had seen the survey two years ago, I was trying to search for how [the researchers] got their info. I think [the researchers] are just getting whoever they can get." 

Jenkins said he checked whether anyone else in Health Services had been contacted by the researchers, but no one had spoken to Trojan's researchers. Since no one at Rice was contacted, it is hard to tell how accurate the ranking is, Jenkins said. 

Trojan used a separate research firm, Sperling's BestPlaces, to prepare its Sexual Health Report Card. 

"Sperling's BestPlaces researchers collected extensive data via student health center representatives, along with follow-up secondary research on those centers and students on campus," the press release states. 

Head Rice Health Advisor Chris Keller said he was initially shocked by the ranking, but after investigation did not put much faith in the survey's methods. 

"Of course, it's alarming at first: We were No. 24 in 2010, then No. 48 in 2011, and now we're No. 65," Keller, a Jones College senior, said. "Then I looked at the methodology, and it says that they contacted health center representatives. When I asked around, no one at the Wellness Center said they had been contacted, and no one at Health Services said they had been contacted." 

Keller said that neither he nor fellow Head RHA Jenny Wan were contacted. 

 Director of the Women's Resource Center Kori Bertun said there were no substantial changes in sexual health programming at Rice over the past year that would cause the ranking to decrease. 

Bertun said if Health Services would begin offering emergency contraceptives again, it may improve rankings. 

According to Jenkins, Health Services no longer offers emergency contraceptives because state law made them available over the counter 24 hours a day at any pharmacy. Health Services would have to hold a pharmacy license to offer emergency contraceptives, which is not a possibility for Health Services, Jenkins said. 

The Wellness Center, Health Services and RHAs all continue to offer free condoms and contraceptive advice to students, Keller said. 

Another problem Bertun said may exist is a lack of students using the resources provided. 

"In general, we need to reach out to students who don't know about [sexual health]," Bertun said. "Some students are coming to college from Texas public schools, where they teach abstinence-only programs, and others know a lot more. We need to be more cognizant of the different levels of knowledge." 

Keller said he thought Rice students were well-educated on sexual health and that, as an RHA, he tended to get more relationship-oriented questions than sexual health-related questions. 

"The survey didn't look as much into the relationship aspect of sexual health," Keller said. "[The survey] focused more on sexual health and not sexual wellbeing." 

Jones freshman Adeene Denton said the RHAs are helpful sources for advice but that sexual health is not a popular topic. 

"[Sexual health resources] are just something that's hard to make accessible," Denton said. "It's awkward, and people don't really want to talk about it." 

Martel College senior and Wellness Center intern Devon Morera said students not reaching out may be caused by a certain mentality here at Rice. 

"A lot of Rice students don't think about sexual health very much," Morera said. "There are stereotypes of relationships at Rice - either you're in a long-term relationship, only hooking up or are perpetually single, so students don't think sexual health is important ... We want students to take advantage of resources on campus and be aware of how important sexual health is." 

Jenkins said he thought the Rice student body was fairly proactive about sexual health and that Health Services receives well-informed questions from students. 

"I think from the range of questions we get and the number of people we have coming in, we have a knowledgeable student population," Jenkins said. "I think we have a proactive community. I think it does help us do our job well in that we have an informed student body." 

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