On Joe Sangiardi’s desk, on the first floor of the Conoco Student Leadership Center of the Oklahoma Memorial Union, there’s a pineapple-sized jar, and it’s full of condoms.
“My friends think it’s really funny I have them around here, but I joke that it is candy for college kids.” Sangiardi says.
This "candy jar" of condoms is one of many places around campus where students can pick up free protection. However, efforts of the Student Government Association may not be enough. Trojan, the condom manufacturing company, recently ranked the University of Oklahoma 85th of 141 Universities around the country in its most recent Sexual Health Report Card. The evaluation takes into account eleven different factors including condom availability, STD and HIV testing, and the quality of sexual health resources.
“I had two initial reactions,” says Sangiardi. “My first was kind of an emotional, kind of questioning what going on. The other one was a much more educated response after I actually analyzed the survey.”
A year ago, OU was 65th, the best ranking for the University the last five years. They dropped twenty spots over the last year.
“How is that we have dropped twenty ranking spots when we’ve actually increased the amount of programs and accessibility to sexual health programs and supplies doubly and triply over the last years?” asks Sangiardi.
Even though the OU Board of Regents approved a 9.6 percent increase of funding to the Women’s Outreach Center last March, Sangirardi still sees a lack of sexual education before students attend college
“I think the difficulty we have here is, in state like this, where Sex Ed is a much more contentious debate in public education, school, before college,” says Sangiardi. “I think it’s very possible we’re having a lot more kids coming through the university who’ve never actually formally had sex ed.”
Terry Dennison, Human Sexuality professor at the University of Oklahoma explains that current state law does not require Sex-Ed and often when it is offered it is abstinence-only.
“I would say that the majority of the students that I have in my class did not get high school Sex-Ed,” says Dennison. “They are coming into the picture with a deficit of handling sexuality at this point in their lives.”
According to the 2011 Oklahoma Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than half of Oklahoma high school students reported having had sexual intercourse. The Centers for Disease Control ranks Oklahoma 5th in the nation in rates of teenage pregnancy.
OU’s Women’s Outreach Center has developed programs designed for undergraduates to fill those gaps in knowledge. Kathy Moxley, Director of the center describes one student-to-student program created to educate Sooners.
“We have group called ‘Sexperts’ made up of students here at OU who go through training and then they do a one hour work shop in the residence halls, classrooms with students organization on STD, pregnancy prevention and HIV education.”
Moxley estimates they only reach between 500 and 1,000 students each year. Compare that to the 4,000-plus freshman that enter OU each fall, and more than 75% of incoming students are left out. However, since all incoming students are required to complete a sexual assault online training course, would pairing it with sex education help?
“I’m not sure that mandatory sexual education is the way to go on a college campus,” Moxley says. “I would look for other ways to reach our population and make sure information is accessible.”