For the last seven years, Trojan Condoms has been going around rating universities across the country to see how they stack up when it comes to keeping students safe in the bedroom. Boise State received its report card in the mail this month.
Out of 141 universities, Boise State ranked comfortably in the upper 50 percent in spot 52, which is up from spot 66 last year. Yet after prodding around in regard to the grade, it turns out the university has more to offer than what its score suggests.
The grades are a culmination of several factors from the availability of sexual health services like contraceptives, sexually transmitted disease testing and sexual assault resources.
Researchers sponsored by Trojan queried schools on many things. To find information from each of the schools they would go to the school’s health and wellness website and try to gather information as a student might.
They got into contact with each school’s equivalent of our own Health and Wellness center and looked into services and information from the perspective students are believed to try and access it.
“We looked at the largest schools and we looked at the athletic conferences. We figured this was a good way to look at peer schools. There were smaller schools that wouldn’t necessarily meet the criteria or size, and then of course we included the Ivy League schools,” said Bert Sperling, founder of Sperling’s Best Places.
The company was hired by Trojan’s public relations firm to do research for the grades.
“We did not measure the amount of sexual activity on campus, so we did not measure the actual sexual health of students. That information is just not available and there is no good way to do that. That’s not what we’re looking for. Sexual health resources and information for students was what we were looking for,” Sperling said.
Researchers focused heavily on the websites of universities, saying that was the natural place students would go to for information about sexual health resources on their campus.
Yet there is more happening in regard to sexual health resources than can be found on the health and wellness center website.
Jodi Brawley, assistant director of wellness and marketing, said there is more going on than is obvious at the surface. While the school’s score of 52 out of 141 was still not bad – there is something to be said for the university offering a full medical clinic with a whole gamut of contraceptives for students – some of the school’s efforts would have gone undetected by researchers.
For students living on campus there are over 30 vending machines spread throughout the residence halls where students can get some inexpensive rubber to sheath themselves with. In addition the Health and Wellness Center offers condoms by the basket-full.
“We fill the baskets weekly,” said Brawley.
Small efforts like this are in place, as well as no-nonsense talk sessions for students with health and wellness personnel to ask questions all about sexual health, also to learn the ins and outs of contraceptive which students can both see and examine samples of.
This information is not broadcast via the school’s website, so Sperling’s team performing the survey for Trojan would not have known unless they were to dive a little deeper. As Brawley explained, the university does not have a stance on student sexual health as a matter of policy but they do provide services for students, as well as education on the relevant subjects.
There is no mention of condom dispensers in the residence halls and the peer-to-peer awareness programs because those things are for the on-campus community, not the general public. The general public doesn’t go to the university for STI testing – although testing is available through the university for students – really it’s a matter of taking care of your own, and taking into account who really needs to know.
To be sure, we have to take anything Trojan says with a grain of salt. While the survey is seven years running and does provide useful insight to a school’s available resources, it is still a survey sponsored by a condom company.
While he couldn’t speak for Trojan, Sperling had this to say in regard to what a company has to gain from such a study.
“Corporations realize it does good things for them to do good things. This is a seven-year study, one of our longest lived research studies, and one that we feel the best about, because of the information it puts in the hands of students. So corporations get positive press that they are being a good citizen, it’s putting a positive light on their efforts, they want to take care of their customers,” Sperling said.
Boise State didn’t make the top ten in Trojan’s sexual health report card this year, but we’re up from last year, and we can be thankful we are not in the bottom ten.