Georgetown ranked 93 out of 140 college campuses on Trojan Brand Condoms’ 2014 Sexual Health Report Card and was the highest ranked Catholic university on the list.
It was placed above Boston College and the University of Notre Dame, which ranked 108 and 127, respectively.
The report card, which comes out annually, ranked Georgetown 103 in 2011, 95 in 2012 and 96 in 2013.
Trojan commissioned the research to Sperling’s BestPlaces, an independent research company located in Portland, Ore. Its findings were released Oct. 20 and evaluated the sexual health information and resources available on college campuses nationwide.
Student health centers were scored based on 11 categories: hours of operation, allowance of drop-ins, quality and accessibility of the student health website, contraceptive availability, condom availability, HIV testing, sexually transmitted infections testing, lecture and outreach programs and peer groups, sexual assault resources and services, overall website usability and extra credit programs, which entail any additional sexual health information service the university provides.
Sperling’s BestPlaces, created and run by Bert Sperling, a software developer and researcher, collects the extensive data using scoring sheets and scoring grids. Since 2006, the firm has worked alongside Trojan Brand Condoms to release the Campus Sexual Health Report Card.
“This is the ninth year. Trojan Brand Condoms asked us to devise some sort of program to measure the resources,” Sperling said. “It has been really successful, and I would imagine that’s why they decide to continue to enable it. It’s been a very successful partnership, and has been great for the students.”
The 140 colleges were selected to cover “major campuses” from all 50 states, out of the 2,500 four year colleges in the U.S. today.
“We chose the largest colleges, and we chose their peer groups. We did that through athletic conferences,” Sperling said. “Then we looked at schools like Georgetown, which sort of have an outsized influence. By choosing the largest schools, what we are able to do is, even though it is 140 schools out of 2,500 schools, we cover 30 percent of undergraduates in the United States.”
Sperling said that in order to improve its poor ranking, Georgetown must provide more sexual health resources to students.
“Georgetown, as number 93 out of 140, could do a better job,” Sperling said. “There is not very much information when it comes to sexual health provided to students, at least on their website. The HTI and STI testing is certainly very good. But as far as the information provided to the students, there is not a lot. It is up to the students to find their own information. There is not a focus on sexual health.”
The Student Health Center is open for eight hours on Mondays and Fridays, 9.5 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, eight hours on Wednesdays and three hours on Saturdays. Georgetown Health Education Services provides HIV and STI testing through the Student Health Center and outreach programs and sexual assault resources through crisis counseling and Sexual Assault Peer Educators. The university does not provide contraceptives of any kind, including condoms, to students.
In a 2010 letter from Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson to unaffiliated student group H*yas for Choice, Olson explained that the university could not support the distribution of condoms because of its religious affiliation.
“Georgetown’s policies and practices rest on the strong underpinning of Catholic social and moral teaching and its affirmation of the dignity of all persons from the beginning of life to its natural end,” Olson wrote. “… As a Catholic and Jesuit university our policies must reflect our identity and our values.”
Administrators from Health Education Services and the Student Health Center did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Student groups provide a variety of sexual health services. The Georgetown administration, along with student representatives, instituted “I Am Ready,” a mandatory sexual assault training program for the first time at this year’s New Student Orientation. Since Georgetown policy bans the sale of condoms on university property, H*yas for Choice provides free condoms and sexual health resources for students. Student representatives from the club hand out condoms in free speech zones on campus, put condom envelopes on their dorm room doors and developed a free condom delivery service in October. Students with a desire to purchase condoms must buy them off campus, with the closest destination, CVS Pharmacy, over half a mile away.
Take Back the Night board member and SAPE member Haley Maness (NHS ’15) said that she is surprised by the mid-level ranking.
“I think it’s admirable that we were not dead last considering the only sexual health information comes from H*yas for Choice,” Maness wrote in an email. “It is difficult for students to get contraception prescribed to them at the Student Health Center, and I worry that not all options are explored with patients that come in. Some physicians will not prescribe birth control unless it is for acne or PMDD [premenstrual dysphoric disorder] — and will not prescribe for actual contraceptive reasons.”
Maness said that student services like SAPE provide information that the university does not.
“Luckily, organizations like SAPE can talk about consent and healthy relationships, which means that even though there are problems with contraception, we can still encourage students to pursue healthy and respectful relationships,” Maness said.
Trojan Vice President of Marketing Bruce Weiss noted the importance of the Sexual Health Report Card in encouraging student health centers to make necessary changes.
“The makers of Trojan Brand Condoms believe colleges and universities have a responsibility to help students develop sexually healthy attitudes and behaviors by providing unfettered access to information, services and products,” Weiss said. “By calling attention to the state of sexual health on campus, we hope to get people talking about the issues, initiating change and making smart decisions about their sexual health.”
In fact, Weiss noted that the report card has encouraged change within colleges already.
“Over the years the Report Card has served as a catalyst for many schools to take a closer look at how students are being equipped with the tools needed to stay informed on sexual health,” Weiss said. “Whether it’s via a new sex week, increased peer-to-peer programing or ‘Free Condom Fridays,’ we’ve seen schools from all regions and a variety of affiliations use the rankings to spark positive conversations and change.”
The university health center was criticized in late September during a campus-wide health scare after Andrea Jaime (NHS ’17) died of bacterial meningitis Sept. 16.
Students cited displeasure with their difficulties scheduling last-minute appointments, and many said they utilized other off-campus health services, such as the CVS Minute Clinic, when sick or in need of care.
Grace Smith (COL ’18) is a member of H*yas for Choice and said that she is disappointed in the university’s lack of sexual health resources.
“I think that as a Catholic institution, sometimes the university might run into conflicts when its duties to students and its religious identity intersect in challenging ways, but I think the university has to understand that sexual health education is a topic that cannot go undiscussed,” Smith said. “The university has a responsibility to provide the appropriate resources and educational outlets to the students, and I think that the ranking may allude to the fact that the university could be doing a better job.”
Gabriella Munoz (COL ’18) of Vita Saxa, a pro-life student group, said that she does not believe Georgetown is obligated to provide students with contraception.
“I see a shift in the Catholic Church, in that it is being more youth-focused, and, therefore, understanding that conversations about sexual health and activities are necessary, especially for older teens,” Munoz said. “However, as a Catholic campus, I don’t think Georgetown should be expected to provide or sell contraceptives of any kind on campus simply because it goes against Catholic morals. I think that should be respected. As for sexual assault, I believe there can be more publication of resources available for people.”
Monica Nolasco (COL ’16) said that the low ranking reveals the work that Georgetown must do to improve.
“I know students on campus have been doing a lot lately to raise awareness about what the campus has to offer and what, perhaps, it’s lacking,” Nolasco said. “So that’s really good to see, in my opinion. … I’m hoping this helps the university realize, along with the numbers that were published, what it needs to do, and even though it is Jesuit, that shouldn’t stop it from helping students — mostly female students. That’s something that we really need.”