Last week, Student Government approved a resolution to stock high traffic restrooms on campus with menstrual products. This resolution reflects an encouraging trend on their part to promote women’s and sexual health on campus. However, disturbing revelations about the sexual lives of students demonstrate the need for further action to promote sexual health on campus.
Almost 90 percent of UT students come from Texas high schools, and these high schools embody some of the nation’s most counterproductive and harmful sex education. About 58 percent of Texas schools teach abstinence-only sex education, and 25 percent of Texas schools offer no sex education at all.
Only 17 percent of Texas sex education programs mention or encourages contraception and STI protection.
Taken together, this yields a remarkable number of UT students who arrive with very little to no formal education regarding sexual health.
It may seem unbelievable that students in the 21st century can get all the way to college without learning about safe sex, but statistics about sexual health on campus prove the naivete of this mindset. The UT Austin Spring 2017 survey from the American College Health Association reports 51 percent of UT students did not use protection the last time they had sex — a disturbing increase from 46 percent in Spring 2016.
In the past year, 1.3 percent of sexually active students reported experiencing an unintended pregnancy. Within the last 12 months, 23.3 percent of sexually active female students reported taking the morning after pill. Only 23 percent of students reported having ever been tested for HIV and 31 percent of UT students reported “pulling out” as a method of birth control.
The University Health Services provides a plethora of valuable resources regarding STI prevention and testing, and most residence halls have free condoms available for students. However, these efforts are obviously insufficient.
Incoming UT students are required to take brief online classes on sexual consent and alcohol usage, but no mention is made of safe sex practices. Perhaps the University thinks we learned sex education in high school.
The overwhelming majority of Texas students graduate and go to college without receiving sufficient sex education, and this shortcoming is directly influencing UT’s students’ failure to take their health into account.
The University must recognize that UT students require a degree of comprehensive sexual education they’re not receiving. In order to fix this, the University must make sex education available to all students — and not on a voluntary basis. Obviously, students aren’t seeking out these resources, and mandatory sex education would reach students who aren’t necessarily aware they need to be informed.
College students shouldn’t need sex education, and colleges shouldn’t have to provide it. But in the midst of a public education system that fails its students so desperately, sexual education on college campuses has become a sad necessity.
Poor sexual health on campus is an embarrassing problem, but it’s also a fixable one. The fact that a majority of UT students do not report having used protection the last time they had sex presents a horrifying public health concern for the University, but it also presents a realistic opportunity for the University to improve and prioritize the well-being of its students.
Anderson is a Plan II and history freshman from Houston. Follow her on Twitter @lizabeen.