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SHIC facing delays with staff applications

Durowaa Ageyeman-Mensah sits in a decorated SHIC, which is still closed to students.

After almost 19 months without the Sexual Health Information Center (SHIC) running formal operations, student leaders Zama Buthelezi `21.5, Durowaa Agyeman-Mensah `22 and Nazma Noray `23 are working to find a new start in coordination with Student Health and Wellness (SHAW).

The team is hoping to reopen SHIC as soon as possible, as they are currently operating with only three students, when a usual year would have around 15 students on staff. The current goal is to have staff applications out before fall break so they can operate to the full capacity as soon as possible.

In addition, SHIC will continue to operate on the first floor of Main Hall while applications are getting set up.

SHIC is acclimating to significant changes, including moving from the supervision of Student Government Association (SGA) to SHAW. This is the primary delay in the return of SHIC because the two organizations must learn and decide how to operate in these new conditions.

They are trying to take the reopening as an opportunity to make SHIC a “new and improved, 2.0 version,” said Buthelezi. Currently, SHIC leaders are discussing best ways to run hiring protocols and to gather student input on what types of resources and programming to offer.

In January 2020, SHIC was shut down by the administration due to concerns about how well the student educators running SHIC were trained and the lack of supervision. At the time, SHIC operated as a student organization and was funded under SGA.

SHIC was able to return to limited operations in February. At the time, they could only provide condoms, dental dams, lubricant and menstrual products. However, in March of 2020, the pandemic once again reduced their ability to fulfill their role on campus because student leaders were unable to physically be in Grinnell.

When the initial shutdown was announced, it was a surprise to the student leaders.

“It was so uncertain. It was jarring and shocking and upsetting. And I think it put, like, SHIC leaders in a kind of precarious situation to like, how much do I want to act on this, how much does it matter?” said Agyeman-Mensah.

“We really believe a lot on like just student interaction and just like the passion and the energy of everyone else. But when all that went away because we were shut down, we really just had to buckle down and preserve the spirit of SHIC ourselves,” said Buthelezi.

While campus was closed, SHIC was still able to offer virtual office hours. Noray and Buthelezi both said they were contacted outside of SHIC by friends and students who knew they were involved, and asked for advice on sexual health.

Now, officially decided during the summer of 2021, SHIC operates under SHAW, which is led by Dean of Health and Wellness Terry Mason.

Buthelezi said that part of the decision to move to SHAW was from SGA supervisor Ashley Adams. “She didn’t feel fully equipped to be our supervisor when it came to more intricate, more medical conversations that were being brought up,” said Buthelezi. But when Mason started in his new position, it seemed like a perfect fit.

Additionally, moving away from SGA could open new opportunities for SHIC. “[SGA], they do so much already,” said Buthelezi, “And we’re trying to do more so it’s kind of like we’re too big to be under something that’s already so big.”

Moving to SHAW has not resolved all the red tape and challenges, however, of opening back up.

“[SHAW] seems like they’re outsiders kind of looking in, and so when they ask questions, it’s like clear that they don’t really have an understanding of what’s going on and what we want to do … like why we need to have tampons,” said Noray.

“We’re faster [than SHAW],” said Buthelezi. “Like let’s just go do the thing, but they’re like, ‘I have to consult my supervisor and consult this.’ … We’re ready to go all the time.”

Despite these setbacks, the trio are aware that this is the reality of working in sexual health and are trying to take it as a learning experience. “For most of us, this is the realm of work we want to be in once we leave, and there are rules that we’re going to have to pay attention to,” said Buthelezi.

SHIC will continue to post updates about hiring and services available on their Instagram @gcshic.

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