TU’s low Trojan survey ranking a minor concern

On Trojan’s recent sexual health survey, TU was ranked a lowly 109 out of 140 universities. This represents a drop from last year’s ranking of 97. However, this isn’t necessarily a cause for concern.

The survey’s methodology includes eleven categories to rank student health centers: the quality of sexual health information and resources on the website; contraceptive availability (free or. at cost); condom availability (free or at cost); HIV testing-on site (on or off-campus and cost); STI testing on site (on or off-campus and cost); lecture and outreach programs and student peer groups for sexual health education; sexual assault programs, resources or services; overall website usability and quality; hours of operation; the allowance of drop-ins as opposed to required appointments and “extra credit.”

Two potential objections are that all of these categories (except perhaps for the mysterious extra credit) together basically assume 1) that a large portion of the student body will engage in sexual activity outside of marriage or a monogamous relationship and 2) that it’s a university’s job to get involved in students’ sex lives.

These are both cultural and value judgements with which some students likely don’t see a problem. Also, large numbers of students engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage is probably an accurate description, even if some would have moral objections to it. Either way, it isn’t necessary to embrace these objections in order to find the survey problematic.

For one thing, a ranking by itself isn’t particularly informative. Isn’t how healthy a college campus is in absolute terms a more important thing than how healthy it is in relation to other universities? USA Today reports that on “a 4.0 scale, average scores increased from 1.9 in 2006 to 3.00 this year.” This indicates that having a slightly lower ranking this year would be better than having a higher one years before.

Also, while it’s more likely that a ranking of 109 is indicative of a low score, theoretically even the low-scoring universities could just be clustered close to the 3.0 score.

Furthermore, a ranking doesn’t say how well a university did in a given category. So, all one can say looking at the rankings is that 108 universities did better than TU. One cannot say how much better they did or how badly TU actually scored.

Secondly, a report on sexual health at universities should measure the sexual well-being of students. It could take into account the number of STDs contracted, the number of unintended pregnancies, etc. (Of course, that would pose privacy concerns, but the actual metric would be more accurate).The Trojan report does not do that. Rather, it examines what a college does to prevent those things from happening.

Basically, the Trojan report only measures what a university does to keep its students healthy, rather than how healthy they actually are. Theoretically, a school composed entirely of virgins but without a program to promote sexual-well being would fail Trojan’s survey.

While that’s certainly an extreme scenario, it isn’t too absurd. Brigham Young University has ranked lower than any other university the last two years. BYU’s student body is almost entirely Mormon, and the honor code prohibits both extramarital sex and drugs and alcohol. And yes, this honor code is enforced. I’m not claiming that BYU is totally free of STDs and unwanted pregnancies, but I do doubt it’s a major problem.

Post Author: tucollegian

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