FAU on Top of Sexual Health

The Owls might not be the best football team in the state, but FAU is the best school in the state for sexual awareness, according to a recent Trojan-sponsored study.

For the past two years, FAU has been named the best school in Florida for overall sexual health by a study sponsored by Trojan Brand condoms.

The study, which was done by Sperling’s BestPlaces – the same company that ranks the best places to live in the country – ranked universities on criteria like condom availability and HIV testing, among other things. (See bottom for the full list.)

“There are lots of studies out there that are light hearted,” Bert Sperling, president of Sperling’s BestPlaces, says. “But we take all of our studies very seriously.”

The people to thank for the high ranking are the members of Today and Beyond Wellness, part of FAU’s health service department located above the Breezeway on the Boca campus.

“We prefer students to get information [about sexual health] from us,” says junior Paul Baglio, a student assistant at Today and Beyond Wellness. “It’s not just the condoms – it’s the people. It’s better than learning stuff from movies and TV.”

Like the football team, the FAU Today and Beyond Wellness department has their very own mascot: a three-foot tall cart filled with condoms, including female and glow-in-the dark ones, that they’ve named “Woody.”

“It’s a way for us to talk to people, instead of just giving out condoms,” FAU grad assistant Britney Naddy says. “People feel more comfortable when they see us with Woody.”

Student volunteers push Woody around the Breezeway and all over the Boca campus spreading the safe sex message.

“Woody’s a really great teaching tool,” Director of the Today and Beyond Wellness Rosemary Dunbar says.

FAU moved up from number 22 nationally to number 18 this year, mainly because of a new aspect of the study that takes student feedback into account.

“It’s one thing to provide services,” Bert Sperling says. “But it’s another thing to let the students know that those services are there.”

After last year’s number one ranking, a student poll was done through Facebook, and 44 FAU students answered multiple-choice questions about the university’s sexual health department. The questions focused on how familiar students were with the sexual health services offered at the university.

“The ability to reach students here [at the Today and Beyond Wellness] is astounding,” says Jenna Beckwith, the person in charge of promoting health events on campus. “This place is a well-oiled machine.”

Although entire department reaches out to students, Dunbar says the majority of the credit goes to the student volunteers.

“We have an army of dedicated students,” Dunbar says. “That makes all the difference.”

A few other reasons FAU is ahead of other Florida schools might be the free condoms and the free HIV testing. According to the Sperling’s BestPlaces Web site, 76 percent of schools surveyed do not provide free condoms to students, and only 24 percent offer free STD testing on campus.

“You’ve got to offer free testing,” Dunbar adds. “Every time we have testing we have a huge response and it reminds students that they have an obligation to be responsible.”

Dunbar says the department offers free HIV testing every other Thursday and about 38-40 people show up each time for the oral swab test.

“As long as people are comfortable talking about sex,” says Dunbar. “We’re comfortable talking about it.”

THE BEST IN THE NATION: Stanford University in CaliforniaThe Stanford Cardinals moved up 40 spots from No. 41 last year to number one in 2008. According to the Trojan report, Stanford shot up the chart due to high student rankings, comprehensive STD and HIV testing services and high condom and contraception availability. The health department also has a sexual health peer resource center.

THE WORST IN THE NATION:DePaul University in IllinoisThe school’s ranking went from last year’s No. 122 to dead last, the worst of the 139 schools ranked. According to DePaul’s student newspaper, sexual health services at Depaul University are so hard to find students consider it like a game of “hide and seek.” The department also does not have a health services Web site.

Where does the rest of Florida rank?? No. 18 – Florida Atlantic University ? No. 44 – University of Miami? No. 47 – University of Florida? No. 56 -University of Central Florida? No. 66 – University of South Florida ? No. 75 – Florida International University? No. 88 – Florida State University

Why FAU ranked number one in the state:The Sperling’s BestPlaces study ranked universities on 13 levels of sexual awareness:

1. Student opinion of health center 2. Hours of operation 3. Allow drop-ins, require appointments 4. Separate sexual awareness program 5. Contraceptives, free or at cost 6. Condoms, free or at cost 7. HIV testing (on/off campus, at cost) 8. STD testing (on/off campus, at cost) 9. Anonymous advice via e-mail / column 10. Lecture / outreach programs 11. Student peer groups 12. Sexual assault programs 13. Web site usability, functionality