Ball State drops one spot on sexual report card

Students are not the only ones being graded. The annual Trojan Sexual Health Report Card evaluated Ball State's sexual health services, rating the university 31st out of 141 colleges across the country.

The ranking is one spot lower than last year's report card. The study was conducted by Sperling's BestPlaces and led by Bert Sperling. Sperling said the change is of little significance, adding that 31st is a commendable ranking.

"Rating is on a curve and any school that scores in the top third is doing very well indeed," Sperling said.

The report evaluated schools based on 13 categories including student opinion of the health center, hours of operation, HIV and STI testing, the availability of contraceptives and condoms, outreach programs for sexual health issues, and anonymous advice available for students.

Ball State's strongest areas were providing male contraceptives, hours of operation, website usability and encouraging drop-in visits.

One category that brought Ball State down was a lack of anonymous advice forums for students.

"If they made an improvement in anonymous advice to students, I'm sure they would pop up quite a few places," Sperling said.

Health educator Julie Sturek said the health department is working on updating its website and considering starting a program similar to "Ask Alice." Ask Alice is a program by No. 1-ranked Columbia that allows students to anonymously ask questions of health professionals over the Internet.

Sturek said students can always e-mail the department at with questions.

The outreach programs are Ball State's strength, Sturek said. Some of the most popular program are Sex in the City, Sexual Health Bingo and Sex Tic Tac Toe, which are programs organized with the help of peer health educators. Sex education programs are also offered by residence assistants in some campus halls.

The drop in ranking didn't seem significant to Sturek, as little has changed in the health department since last year's survey. She points to other schools stepping up their programs as a possible explanation of Ball State's decline.

Purdue's ranking significantly changed, going from 77th last year to 19th. Other local colleges behind Ball State were IUPUI at 35 and Indiana University at 39.

By choosing some of the largest schools in the country, Sperling said the study was able to cover more than 30 percent of undergraduate students.

Sperling said schools adjust their health policies due to the information the study revealed.

"It's been very encouraging for us as researchers to have this kind of positive effect," he said.

Not all colleges have sexual health information easily available. The Spring 2010 National College Health Assessment by the American College Health Association found that 50 percent of students had vaginal intercourse in the past 30 days, but 47 percent hadn't received education at college about sexually transmitted diseases.

Sperling said the point of the research wasn't about telling students whether to have sex, but rather to make information available.

"I think the important thing is to try and get as much information to students as possible so they can make the best choices for themselves," he said.


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