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SHIC “shifts away from sensuality and exploration” after restructuring

Pamphlets discussing sex positivity, dick pics and other sexual-related topics line the back wall of SHIC, Grinnell College’s student-run Sexual Health Information Center, located in their room in Main Hall. SHIC recently reopened after an almost semester-long closure due to a loss of leadership and administration changes. 

No longer offering free sex toys following a controversial restructuring, SHIC still provides emergency contraceptives –– off-brand versions of Plan B that contain the same active ingredient, levonorgestrel –– condoms, lube, dental dams, menstrual products and vaginal care products. Staff can direct students to sexual health resources on campus through Student Health and Wellness, or SHAW.

Tim Hammond, the new associate dean for health and wellness and director of student health promotions as of this August, supervises SHIC and helped the center get back up and running again this semester. 

Hammond said they are “working towards the missions of SHIC, the mission of SHAW and the mission of the college to make sure that students, at a minimum, have sexual health information that is addressing their needs.” 

Unlike years past, SHIC leaders and educators received comprehensive training from Planned Parenthood, sex educators and therapists and Kasey Herbers, director of health services at the College. 

Maria Kazembe `26, a current SHIC leader who has worked there since Fall 2022, said she thought the Planned Parenthood training was wonderful and would want to work with them again in the future.

Through over eight hours of training, SHIC leaders and educators were taught about contraceptives, STIs, consent, biases, what services SHAW provides and how to refer students to them and how to feel comfortable engaging students in conversations about their sexual health and sexuality. 

Last year, Kazembe said SHIC workers were advocating for training like the ones they received this semester because of the questions students would come to them with. “We were terrified of giving out the wrong information or not being able to approach a topic adequately enough. Now that we have that training it feels a lot better.” 

Kazembe also said she feels more prepared to have open discussions with students.

Eleni Karypis `24, a SHIC leader who joined this semester, emphasized the importance of SHIC as an informative space. “Providing an outlet for students to come in and ask questions about menstruation, sex, partner relationships, contraceptives and how to choose what to take is something we have discussed and are prepared to support students in.”  

Although ready for those conversations, Karypis and Kazembe said that the frequency of visits has slowed this semester compared to years past. Kazembe said their average visits a day are around 0-2 people this semester, compared with an average visit per day of 3-5 people last year. According to Kazembe, the main reason for fewer visits has to do with a lack of publicity about reopening, restricted access to the SHIC Instagram and email account and the removal of free sex toys. Although SHIC has operated under SHAW for years, Kazembe said SHIC leaders now need SHAW’s approval for all Instagram posts and email communications.

In Spring 2023, Kazembe said SHIC leaders at the time were in conversation with SHAW about their mission statement and there were conversations about the necessity of sex toys as a resource SHIC could provide. At the same time, SHIC leadership had to step down for health reasons, so the center ended up unable to operate until now. 

Kazembe also said the removal of sex toys reflects the changes to SHIC’s mission statements. “Our focus has changed a lot,” she said, “and is now geared a lot more towards sexual reproduction and reproductive health and has shifted away from sensuality and exploration.”  

Overall, she said her experiences negotiating with SHAW last semester had a lack of transparency. She said she felt SHAW did not fully understand SHIC’s view on sexuality and sex positivity, which resulted in changes to how SHIC can operate now. 

Hammond, who came into this position after the administration changes were put in place, said that from their interviews for their position, “It was made very clear that the college wants SHIC to be successful.” 

“We had a robust pool of candidates to hire from and I imagine that’s going to continue to be the case to have passionate, qualified and informed students who want to continue to help SHIC be a valuable resource for students,” Hammond said. 

“So far it’s been honestly a very positive experience,” Karypis said about her first semester at SHIC. 

For the last month and a half, they have been busy with reorganizing, training and setting up their space. “But we’re kind of like hitting our flow and things are going well,” Karypis said. 

In an effort to increase student engagement, SHIC hosted a Positive Play game night last Friday in Gardner Lounge from 7-9 p.m. The games included “pin the vibrator on the clit,” sex trivia, “kink bingo” and “STD swamp.” Participants had a chance to win prizes that included sex toys, satin blindfolds and sex-positivity pamphlets. 

Kazembe said SHIC has lots of future project ideas in the works, including creating a spicy reading list and an anonymous question forum, some of which can be seen on a whiteboard in the SHIC room. 

“I feel like we’re at a more stable point because at the end of the day we are all here for each other and here to further SHIC and expand SHIC,” she said. “So I know that no matter what happens, and no matter what form SHIC will take, that it’s really not going anywhere.” 

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About the Contributors
Claire Giannosa
Claire Giannosa, Staff Writer

Claire Giannosa is a second-year from New York City studying English and Anthropology at Grinnell. In her free time, she loves reading and writing fantasy books and going on sunset walks with friends. Besides studying, leading Creative Writing Club, and S&B work she can usually be found on Mac Field playing ultimate frisbee.

Levi Magill
Levi Magill, Visuals Editor
I am a third-year philosophy major from Chicago, but when I'm not reading philosophy I like to watch classic movies, skate around town with my camera, ride my motorcycle, or listen to old records.
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    Libby EggertDec 4, 2023 at 9:00 am

    There’s a lot of information missing from this story (to no one’s fault — because it’s not been written about) but I’m writing some here because The S&B is one of the only places that has the full story of SHIC represented.

    SHIC leadership left in the spring due to health reasons and there were miscommunications about the future of SHIC. We were told all of a sudden that sex toys were not allowed, with little reason or path to resolution offered. Suddenly all our structures and operations were blocked. We were not communicated with because there was no student formally in leadership but we were constantly asking for information and updates and action we could take. We did everything we could. We worked for hours and hours unpaid over the end of the semester and the summer. We were not told with confidence that SHIC would even open. We stood in operational purgatory and essentially lost our jobs.

    When hiring came around this year, Kazembe ’26 was the only returner rehired by SHAW. Every returner who applied was not asked to come back. We had no reason to believe that we would not be rehired. The experience and embodied knowledge was denied as valuable. There is an intentional denial of the institutional memory because SHAW does not want that pushback.

    I’m excited for the new iteration of SHIC — the work new staff is doing is awesome and invaluable, but don’t be surprised when SHAW starts stripping the rights again or pushes you out if you try to do something they don’t like. They’ve already taken a lot of the duties that SHIC is entitled to. Be careful.