As president of VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood at CMU, I have mixed feelings about this report card ranking.
I’m not surprised by the low ranking for the “overall website usability and quality, and quality of sexual health information and resources on the website,” because that is a need I’ve noticed on our campus as well. In response to the lack of information CMU provides on its website (and the difficulty many students have accessing the information available), VOX created a Tumblr blog dedicated to answering anonymous sex education questions last month.
With the assistance of my vice president, Marie Reimers, we are able to provide people with answers to their sexual health, relationship, as well as sexual aggression questions. Since the blog is so new, we’re still in the process of advertising it on campus, although the information is available on our Facebook page (Voices for Planned Parenthood at Central Michigan University) and our Twitter (@vox_at_cmu). The actual blog can be accessed at cmuvox.tumblr.com and questions can be submitted via the Ask us! button.
I was surprised at the low grade for “lecture/outreach programs and student peer groups for sexual health education.” My RSO makes a huge effort on campus to provide students with quality sexuality education. This year, we received 1,000 Trojan condoms through the Great American Condom campaign and have tabled multiple weeks in the UC, outside the Down Under Food Court, to hand them out for free. This year, I developed safer sex packets that include three different types of male condoms, lube samplers and information on how to store and put on male condoms as well as general information about VOX. We also brought a speaker to campus to share her experience with abortion prior to Roe v. Wade and to discuss the importance of abortion as a safe and legal healthcare option. Next semester, we are looking into doing a collaborative event with similar feminist RSOs on campus to raise awareness about sexual aggression.
VOX is the group that organizes CMU’s annual Sextival each spring on Gentle Thursday in Finch Fieldhouse. The Sextival is a sexual health fair set up as a festival with informational tables, live music and games and activities related to sexual health and reproductive rights. One of our most popular activities was decorating your own condom carrier, which allowed students to get creative while learning about the proper way to store condoms.
I was involved in the group during Spring 2011, which was the first year the Sextival put on. Last year, I was the Sextival coordinator for the second annual event and saw a huge improvement. Attendance for the Sextival doubled within those two years (from around 150 to over 300 attendees) and we had over 30 information tables consisting of RSOs and campus and community organizations. This spring, we will be hosting the third-annual Sextival and hope to see an even bigger and better turnout.
In addition to campus wide events, our group members provide sexuality education presentations in residence halls as well as to other RSOs. This year, I revamped our Powerpoint presentation to include a wider variety of information—from STI prevention, the importance of lube and how to find the right contraceptive choice. Although we’ve done a few presentations this semester, one of our primary difficulties is letting people know this service is available. Anyone who is interested in a presentation can contact VOX at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a date and time. We often work with Safer Sex Patrol because their primary focus is on STI prevention through condom use, while VOX is able to talk about pregnancy prevention and all contraceptive methods.
In recognition of our group’s efforts to improve the sexual health of campus, we were awarded $500 from Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan because VOX at CMU was the most active and involved Students for Choice group in Michigan. It was determined through a point system that counted the number of events we put on, the success we have getting petition cards signed and the number of condoms we pass out. We beat all of the other student groups by at least 100 points.
So while the article raises an important finding— that CMU needs to increase it’s commitment to sexual health — it did not note all of the resources available on campus. It’s disappointing that the efforts of student groups are not recognized on this campus because RSOs are what makes CMU what it is. Not only did VOX go unrecognized, but groups like Spectrum and Students Advocating Gender Equality (which provide information on sexual and gender identity) were not considered relevant to sexual health.
A step that CMU could make to improve its rating would be to update its website and add information for these student groups that are committed to raising awareness about and improving sexual health on campus. Because while it is important for CMU to update and improve the information they offer, there are student groups on campus that already do that and could be a vital resource in that process. We would be more than happy to help CMU renew their commitment to sexual health and work together to improve our rating.