This year, Trojan released its Seventh Annual Sexual Health Report. The Sexual Health Report ranks approximately 140 United States universities and colleges on their sexual health.
The Sexual Health Score or “GPA.” that a university receives is not based on the actual health of the students and their sexual activity but rather the information that has been made available to the students via their student health centers and offices.
The study’s head researcher for the past seven years has been Bert Sperling, president of Sperling’s BestPlaces. He was in charge of determining the proper methodology that should be used to carry out the study to yield comprehensive data.
“I want to just make clear that it’s a report card of the resources and information that is available to the students at the different colleges,” Sperling said. “We don’t look at the amount of sexual activity of the students or STDs.”
There were 10 different categories used to determine a university’s sexual health.
Hours that the health center is available to students including days per week and hours each day were measured. It is important to a universities’ sexual health GPAs that a health center is open on nights and weekends and also whether or not they encourage drop-in appointments and waive fees to do so.
An important factor in the report was whether or not contraceptives for both men and women are provided to students.
“This is not just what’s available, but the costs involved in them,” Sperling said. Many times universities even provided information about the pros and cons of particular contraceptive methods.
HIV and STD testing were each separate factors considered in the study.
“Many times for many universities the testing is only available off campus,” Sperling said. The costs involved in testing and the amount of time it takes for results to be processed are very important.
The availability of lecture and outreach programs put on by health centers such as skits and on-campus events were something that the study looked at, as well as the existence of student peer groups.
Other important factors in considering the university’s GPA were sexual assault services and programs, including 24-hour hotlines and resources made available to students.
Additionally, the university’s student health center website is closely evaluated by its quality and the information provided on it.
The reason the website is so closely scrutinized is because when the health center is closed during the weekend and at night, the website is a student’s sole method of obtaining information, according to Sperling.
“All factors are important,” Sperling said. “The level of information that is provided to the students that we find on the website and the peer groups—I would say those probably are of primary importance. They stand out the most.”
The University has dropped 19 spots in the past year to number 112 out of 141 schools, with the first spot going to the university that is viewed as the most “sexually healthy” in terms of the information provided to students.
“Nineteen places out of 141 are not very large,” Sperling said. “It doesn’t represent a huge shift in where it ranks. However, Villanova could do better as far as providing information.”
In Sperling’s opinion, what might have been the contributing factor to the University’s drop of 19 spots is that there is no information provided to students about different types of contraceptives, and this may be of concern to the students.
“I wouldn’t say that there was any one particular factor, but, just looking at the information, it is pretty unusual,” Sperling said.
He noticed a commonalities among lower ranking universities.
“The schools that are ranked near the bottom are schools that have stated sexual activity between students should be between married students,” Sperling said.
Stacy Andes, director of the Office of Health Promotions, was unshaken by the results. “I’m not surprised. We always rank relatively low because the survey is sponsored by Trojan so their primary area of concern is whether or not we distribute contraception to students,” Andes said.
“I always challenge what the other schools that are higher on the list are doing in terms of their sexual health education instead of if they distribute condoms at low costs for free,” Andes said.
She argued that the distribution of contraception is just a small factor in deciding a university’s sexual health GPA and that it shouldn’t be condemning.
The Office of Health Promotions is something that the University has that is unique to other schools.
In a smaller University with about 6,500 undergraduates, it is unusual that there are four full-time health educators as well as interns and peer education groups that are made available to students.
Office of Health Promotions is helpful to students in many ways, most of which Trojan’s report, that merely studied the Health Center’s general site, could have potentially overlooked, Andes noted.
Some examples of this are the issues of the Stall Street Journal that are published monthly in residence halls around campus as well as peer education groups.
The Office of Health Promotions website features information about contracting STIs, such as symptoms and prevention, information about postponement of sexual activity.
“Every now and then we do a Stall Street Journal dedicated to sexual health,” Andes continued. “We do programs by request. Aside from not giving out condoms, we do everything else related to the issue that, as far as I’m concerned, every campus in that top 10 does.”
“We do a better job at heightening this issue than most of the other Catholic universities,” Andes said. “I feel very confident with what we do provide. I think the challenge on campus is getting students familiar with and comfortable with the topic. We try to do our best to raise awareness about that.”
Sperling believes that health centers are finidng the study increasingly noteworthy.
“Student health centers are really finding our study, after seven years, to be sort of a milestone or an instrument to see how they’re doing,” Sperling said.
This may be true for some universities, but that is not the case here.
For the University’s Office of Health Promotions, their primary indicator for how well they are doing comes from data collected from the students.
The University conducts its own research and determines what direction they should head toward in terms of sexual health education from it.