'Slutgers' stereotype stems from inaccurate 1992 study
Mark Cruz, a health education specialist with Health Outreach, Promotion and Education, educates students and student organizations on different health programs. Cruz also promotes positive health behaviors, regarding sexual health, alcohol and drug use, mental health and nutrition, that lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Cruz said Rutgers has a “sexually promiscuous” label because of a 1992 study that reported inaccurate STI levels among the student population.
The three-year human papillomavirus (HPV) study used a non-random sample of students, which represented about 3 percent of the Rutgers female population.
At first, 26 percent of the participants were already infected with HPV, with 43 percent contracting the virus over the next three years. The study claimed that about 60 percent of participants were infected with HPV at some point during the three-year period, but not always simultaneously.
“The data they pushed out to the public was a high number of students were tested with STIs at Rutgers, which is completely false," he said.
This report incorrectly combined research results resulting in an inflated number of students with STIs being reported. Levels of STIs among students at Rutgers are actually average for a university of its size, Cruz said.
HOPE’s sexual advocacy program works to dispel this myth, he said.
About 25 percent of the HOPE population are student advocates trained to discuss sexually transmitted infections and various forms of prevention, and make up the sexual health advocacy program.
“We talk about cultural norms, what college students are doing and really how to promote the use of latex-based contraception,” Cruz said.
Large universities have begun to widely distribute free condoms to promote safe sex.
Brown University has also begun distributing free latex-based contraceptive supplies to their students via the University’s BWell Health Centers, the Brown Daily Herald reported.
The Rhode Island Department of Health provides condoms and dental dams with the goal of distributing safe-sex supplies to at-risk groups.
HOPE distributes free condoms to student organizations and Residence Life when they administer sex health workshops, Cruz said.
Students have questioned why Rutgers does not jump on the bandwagon and begin to widely distribute free condoms.
But free latex contraceptives are distributed by the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities, as well as in the workshops administered by HOPE.
HOPE pairs free distribution of safe sex supplies with their worships so they can track what students have learned about sexual health and safety.
“We like to provide free condoms to our students after they've come into our workshops, that way we can correct any misinformation they may have had prior to coming here," Cruz said.
Rutgers is unique in that there are many different students from all walks of life, he said. This means many students may not have had sexual health education previously.
HOPE does not simply distribute free condoms at random, in order to prepare students for the real world of buying condoms independently.
“Most of your students will eventually move on (and) graduate and we want them to be able to practice buying condoms," he said. "We want them to overcome this fear or embarrassment.”
One factor keeping students from using condoms is the actual process of going to the store to buy them.
"They are afraid, they are nervous, they are embarrassed," Cruz said. “We are looking beyond the college years."
Gabriela Amaral is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. See more on Twitter @sentientfog.