SHAPE struggles to continue programming amid budget cuts

Many staff positions, including four graduate assistants, one physician, two health coaches, a staff psychologist and the director of the program were cut.

Students who live in residence halls were not provided with contraceptives until almost a month into the semester.

Though part of the fees residents pay to RHA and the Department of Residential Life go toward purchasing the products — which are stocked in dispensers in the lobby or basement of each hall — a shortage in paid staff meant SHAPE got a late start in providing them.

The Student Health Center, which oversees Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education, or SHAPE, discontinued four paid graduate assistant positions for this semester — among other jobs — in response to budget cuts. These graduate assistants would help put together the boxes of contraceptives that went to dorms for the use of residents.

The four graduate assistants who last held the positions graduated last May. Two health coaches and a staff psychologist also left on their own accord, and their positions were not replaced. A staff physician position was also discontinued.

RHA President Matt Bourke said SHAPE’s presence in the halls is important for the safety of residents.

“They keep our students safe, and that is incredibly important,” he said. “Safety is a priority of any governing body of on-campus housing. So the fact that they are able to provide sexual health and safety products to our students...is incredibly important.”

In addition to providing contraceptives to residents, SHAPE takes requests from hall coordinators to come and do presentations about different sexual health-related topics.

“The big thing — and the research proves this — is that peer-to-peer education works,” Pam Roe, communications and marketing director for the Student Health Center, said. “That is their primary function and they’re really good at it. And that is one of the biggest things they do… It’s opening up the conversation of sexual health, which is really hard for a lot of people and just making that conversation more open and more honest...that is what all their training is for, that is what their passion is.”

Student Health Center director Dr. Susan Even said the program will be looking to hire one GA for SHAPE for the spring semester.

Currently, responsibilities formerly held by the GAs have fallen to the undergraduate SHAPE peers.

“It is a little more difficult in that you have to allocate time and SHAPE does so much, and a lot of it is behind-the-scenes, coordinating with so many different organizations,” SHAPE member Heather Tarr said. “It’s a bigger time commitment than last semester, but it’s just different in that there is a lot more behind-the-scenes student involvement rather than from faculty.”

Tarr said that they began stocking the res halls about a month into the semester, and that peers restock each hall once or twice a week.

SHAPE also has fewer members this semester because of the absence of the three credit-hour service learning class that is required to become peer educators. The class, however, will be offered this spring and Even said a faculty member has been secured to teach the course.

Tarr said SHAPE peers have given about 30 presentations this semester, and that requests for presentations — which are filed by individual residence halls, Greek chapters or other organizations — are down by 10 percent from fall 2015.

Even said that Student Health is committed to keeping SHAPE viable because of the necessary place that it has within student life.

“It has been pretty clear from the onset that [SHAPE] is something that is valued by students, that students felt was important and useful, and that we want to continue supporting using the campus partners that it takes to do it,” she said.

Even said that SHAPE is continuing to talk to its on-campus partners about funding. These include the women's and gender studies program, RSVP Center, the LGBTQ Resource Center and RHA, who gives SHAPE $500 per semester to purchase contraceptives to put in residence halls. The Department of Residential Life also gave SHAPE $3,500 this academic year to purchase contraceptives.

Edited by Emily Gallion | egallion@themaneater.com

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