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Administration shuts down SHIC, student workers plan next move


SHIC administrator Zama Buthelezi ’21 in SHIC’s now-closed Main Hall office.
Photo by Mahira Faran.

By Zoe Fruchter

NOW AVAILABLE: Click here to listen to Co-Editors-in-Chief Jackson Schulte and Tommy O’Donnell interview Dean of Students Ben Newhouse, who stated that SHIC is on “pause,” rather than “closed.”

On Friday, Jan 24, Student Affairs announced in an all-campus email that the Grinnell College Sexual Health Information Center’s (SHIC) operations would be put on hold indefinitely, citing employees’ lack of training and supervision, students’ role as representatives of the College and their funding source. The announcement was met with confusion and anger by students and alumni, with a petition circulating on Facebook for SHIC’s reinstatement within 24 hours.

SHIC was established by Grinnell College student Rebecca Bernstein ‘10 in 2010 to give students an on-campus, peer-directed resource for their sexual health. SHIC provides sex supplies such as condoms, lubricants, pregnancy tests and emergency contraception, and runs a peer education program. Like all student organizations, SHIC is funded by SGA through the College-collected student activities fee

According to emails shared with the S&B, former Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Sarah Moschenross and former SGA President Myles Becker informed SHIC leaders on May 17, 2019 that Student Affairs had appointed an advisory board to “support and guide” their work. This Wednesday, Jan 22, current Dean of Students Ben Newhouse and Associate Director of Student Involvement Ashley Adams informed SHIC administrators Anna Bell Hines ’20 and Zamashenge Buthelezi ’21 that they were suspending SHIC’s operations and closing their office in Main Hall until further notice. 

According to the all-campus email, the Board determined that “the risk and compliance issues (individual, organizational, and institutional) associated with SHIC’s current operation and practices were such that it required our attention.” The Board directed SHIC to cease their distribution of consumer products and “providing medical advice or medicine on behalf of the College.

The SHIC Advisory Board comprises of Adams, Associate Controller Amy Anderson, Director of Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) Deb Shill and Title IX Coordinator Bailey Asberry. SHIC members expressed concerns that the board was made up entirely of white administrators, with no students, professors, queer administrators or administrators of color involved, as SHIC is both run by and specifically caters to students of diverse backgrounds and sexual identities.

The SHIC peer educators met on Sunday evening to discuss the closure, led by Buthelezi and Hines. The first priority of the educators is to provide sexual health services to Grinnell students, despite their official closure. 

In terms of the articulated need for training, Hines is in contact with Courtney Joy Beck, an employee of the family planning clinic Primary Healthcare in Marshalltown, to plan official training sessions for educators as soon as possible so that SHIC can recommence their counseling services. Deka Spears, program coordinator for the Stonewall Resource Center, has been allocated funding to supply students with binders, tucking tape and gaffs. Hines and Buthelezi have both made themselves personally available to supply students with contraceptive and menstrual products.

In the all-campus email to the student body, Student Affairs directed students to SHAW for “sexual health and contraception.” However, SHIC educators raised concerns about the official stopgap measure, citing issues with SHAW’s hours of operation and lack of pleasure-oriented resources such as sex toys which the Advisory board deemed part of SHIC’s medical and legal liabilities.

Educators discussed the scenario of “something going wrong” on a Friday evening and a student needing to access emergency contraception or other resources. SHAW is not open on weekends, while SHIC was. 

“It just shows a fundamental misunderstanding,” said Hines, referring to the science behind Plan B and the reality of students’ sexual lives at the College.

To SHIC, the closure process has been characterized by difficulties with administrative oversight. 

Educator Danielle Gillis ‘20 said that the all-campus email sent out by Student Affairs was “Misleading and false, defaming SHIC and the services that we provide.” She explained in an email to The S&B that while the peer educators are not experts, they have had Title IX training, safety training for gender confirming products  and actively educate themselves on all of the products and services they provide .

“Have they ever even been here [SHIC]?” asked educator Fernando Rodriguez ‘22.

The closure of SHIC is related to a broader trend of tension between between the policies put forth by the College administration and the lived experiences of Grinnell students, raising structural issues about student life at the College. SHIC educators see themselves as providing vital resources in a void left by the 2016 departure of Central Iowa Family Planning from Grinnell and an understaffed SHAW center.

SHIC is also the latest student-run business to be shut down or operationally limited in recent years, joining Bob’s Underground Cafe, Lyle’s Pub, and the Black Cultural Center. Many of these closures have been attributed to a lack of clarification about student organizations’ rights, policies and funding.

Additionally, SHIC workers are paid student employees of the College, many of whom rely on their income from this position for part of their rent or food budget. The first concern that Hines addressed at the Sunday night meeting was about payment. The rights of student employees at Grinnell have been heavily contested recently with the legal disputes surrounding the representation of United Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW).

The College is using the same lawyer who argued against UGSDW at last year’s Labor Board hearing, Frank Harty, as their legal counsel in determining SHIC’s fate. SHIC educators raised concerns about Harty’s bias, given his record of representation in cases dealing with discrimination against LGBTQ people and access to abortion.  

This Wednesday, SHIC leaders will meet with Student Affairs to advocate for their short term goal of reopening as soon as possible and long term goals that ultimately include working with the College, though with a greater amount of equity, to improve sexual health resources at Grinnell. 

This article has been edited to reflect Sarah Moschenross’ former title of Associate Vice President for Student Affairs.

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