“There’s a lot of herpes going around at Cornell, and it’s great that people are finally starting to talk about it,” said an anonymous member of the Sexual Health Awareness for Greeks (SHAG) organization on campus.
The Sexual Health Awareness for Greeks is a student-run organization that provides a forum for the Greek community to learn and speak about issues pertaining to sexual health.
SHAG provides information about sexually transmitted diseases and discusses with new members of the Greek community about where to get tested and how to use various forms of birth control. The presentation also allows members to place condoms on bananas and distributes free tubes of lubricant and condoms.
“The goal of our program is to spread sexual health awareness on the Cornell campus, more specifically within the Greek system. We feel that by providing a comfortable college environment, we can get our messages across,” said Giorgio Piccoli ’07, president of SHAG.
SHAG started three years ago as an outreach program at Gannet Health Services. The presentations are funded by the Delta Series in conjunction with support from Gannett.
Paul El-Meouchy ’04, former InterFraternity Council president and member of Sigma Pi, founded the SHAG program.
“[El-Meouchy] started the program because he realized Greeks were sexually active and this was a good way to get the Greek system involved in teaching effective forms of contraception and how to prevent sexually transmitted infections,” Piccoli said.
“Gannet provides us with the supplies and helps to run our training program for the presenters. We are taught how to use humor and anecdotes to present material about sexual intercourse, date rape, assault and contraception. We can hopefully do our part and prevent cases of sexual assault and date rape by teaching students how to act in those situations,” he added.
“Most importantly, we want the new members of the Greek community to know about the relevant sexually transmitted infections so they can make educated decisions for themselves,” Piccoli said.
“There isn’t an STI epidemic at Cornell. However, there is a statistic that says one out of every four college students has a sexually transmitted infection. Therefore, we just want our students to be knowledgeable and aware of what is going on out there,” Piccoli said.
Each SHAG presentation includes two peer-educators giving an hour-long presentation about STIs, forms of contraception, sexual assault, and then opening the floor for questions.
“The chapters have been generally responsive and are happy to have the SHAG presentations come to their houses,” Piccoli said.
“There are also a lot of pre-med students on our presenting team. Most have some sort of interest in learning about the material and want to inform the new members of the Greek system about these topics.”
SHAG presented to over one thousand new members last semester.
Ilene Arnsdorf ’07 presented to Alpha Omicron Pi and Delta Gamma sororities this semester. She will be meeting with the sisters of Alpha Chi Omega and Delta Delta Delta in the upcoming weeks.
“We want to inform people about how to make the best decisions about their personal sexual health. I think that it is good there is dialog in the Greek community about this,” Arnsdorf said.
“SHAG presents issues pertaining to sexual health that people may be too shy or uncomfortable talking about with their peers or members of their Greek chapters,” she said.
The Panhellenic Association has mandated that SHAG meet with each Panhellenic sorority on campus.
“I think that what is most helpful is to provide people with information about what kinds of sexual health tests are available on campus, how much each test costs and where to have them done. We also tell the sororities about where they can get birth control and pregnancy tests,” Arnsdorf said.
Arnsdorf added, “Even if some of the information that we present is a review, it is never bad to refresh your memory. There are always new developments in science and health research, so it’s good to inform the Greek community through our SHAG presentations.”
Colin Heath ’07 is a SHAG presenter for the InterFraternity Council chapters.
“Generally, when we meet with new Greeks, they are reserved and cautious during our presentations. Once we start giving them the facts about sexual health, they then begin ask questions and become more involved in the discussion. Most of the presentations become interactive with them asking questions and telling stories,” he said.
“There are STDs everywhere, and just because we may sometimes feel isolated in Ithaca, doesn’t mean we are STD free,” Heath said.
He added, “I call on Gannett to provide free STD testing to promote sexual health at Cornell.”
Heath suggested that free STD testing may promote more students to go to Gannet to be tested if no fee was required.
Next year, SHAG will be changing to Sexual Health Awareness Group in order to add presentations to the athletic community, freshman dorms and program houses.
Archived article by Allison Markowitz
Sun Staff Writer