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Wednesday, April 17, 2024 — Houston, TX

Sexual education should include general wellness

10/20/15 8:12pm

Student Association President Jazz Silva has created a proposal to implement a mandatory sexual education course for new students in light of the results from the Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experiences (see p. 1). The Thresher commends Silva for positioning Rice as a leader in the national discussion on sexual assault. It is certainly true that the prevalence of sexual assault on campus demands major change, not simply a doubling down on current policies. However, Rice should use this opportunity to address other student health issues as well.

As proposed by Silva, the course will help close the knowledge gap regarding sexuality for incoming students; however, it may be less useful for and thus taken less seriously by students who are already well-informed, especially given its semester-long length. Furthermore, many students may face pressing personal wellness questions not related to sexuality.

Instead of mandating a course about only sexual education, the proposed course should address general well-being. This would maximize the benefit of the class to a wide range of students: Every student can gain something from a course on well-being within the realms of mental, physical or emotional health. This kind of course would serve to destigmatize conversations about not only sex and sexuality but also about topics such as depression and eating disorders that are equally concerning to college students. 

While it is critical to address questions relating to healthy relationships, consent and sexual assault, other health issues should also not be ignored once Orientation Week ends. A mandatory first-year course is an opportunity to effectively combat both sexual misconduct and other serious personal health problems on campus.

Attendance should be mandatory to ensure students do not have gaps in their knowledge. However, for students to truly take the class seriously, it is necessary that instructors emphasize that every student’s commitment to well-being directly affects their peers’ health. 

It may be harmful to place a letter grade on this course, as students should be motivated not by the desire to succeed academically, but rather by the chance to contribute to and learn from a meaningful discussion with their peers. A satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade could be a better measure. The course’s grading should reflect that it is not intended to be academically rigorous.

Cementing any sort of reactionary measure without considering all possible options could result in a haphazard solution. As Silva has said, her proposal is a starting point; we encourage students to remain open-minded and continue the conversation about how to create tangible ways to improve overall student wellness.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

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