Campus health reflects on year

Data from the Student Well-being Index Survey will help judge new health resources.

Student Health plans to incorporate more activities into its outreach and programming following positive student feedback from SAAMLAND, which over 700 students attended last Thursday. (Henry Kofman / Daily Trojan)

Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault. 

In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Student Health will host its final activity — an outdoor screening of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022) followed by a discussion about consent — April 18 at McCarthy Quad. 

Chief Campus Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said she hopes the movie will serve as a starting point to hold conversations and discussions around relationships and gender.

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“Movies allow us to talk about [gender- and power-based harm],” Van Orman said. “We really want to take a broad spectrum, raising people’s awareness about how they support individuals who’ve experienced gender- and power-based harm, help people get help for themselves or resources.”

Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services will facilitate the after-movie discussion, and the event is also co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. 

Last Thursday, Student Health hosted SAAMLAND — a fair to raise awareness about sexual assault that featured an artist canopy, free merchandise, food from The Habit Burger Grill and more. It was the first year Student Health hosted the fair, with over 700 students attending. Van Orman said Student Health will host a similar event next year, albeit it may look slightly different.

“What we’re really taking away from this is students really enjoyed the opportunity to do something, whether it was working on the beads or writing a poem,” Van Orman said. “People have to have an opportunity to do some kind of activity that we hope leads to a degree of reflection and learning about these important topics.”

Van Orman said outreach events have been more resource-focused and less activity-based in the past and that Student Health always tries to learn from the experiences of the events they host. 

Last Friday, the Student Well-being Index Survey closed. The data will only be released in the fall after being analyzed. Van Orman said the data is anonymous and responses will not be tied back to individuals.   

The analysis of the SWIS data will be led by Lauren Martinez, an assistant professor of family medicine with a doctorate in health behavior research, under the purview of USC’s Institutional Review Board. IRBs are groups that review and monitor biomedical research involving human subjects, namely to ensure the rights and welfare of humans participating as subjects in any research is being protected. Since every student is emailed an individualized link, each response is tied to their demographic information. 

“We can get certain characteristics that the University knows about you, like your gender or your school and that allows us to do the analysis, but we’ll never know who you are,” Van Orman said. “We’re interested in each student’s experience, but we’re not doing this to find you, find out your experience or to follow up with you.”  

SWIS has eight set key performance indicators that are asked every year: sense of belonging, fairness and equity, flourishing, at-risk drinking, sexual violence and upstanding behaviors. But this year’s special focus was about sexual assault, misconduct, and gender- and power-based harm. The last time those questions were asked was in 2019. 

Van Orman said those additional questions are not asked every year, because they’re used to evaluate the University’s new policies and initiatives, which take time to change. Since 2019, USC’s Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX has implemented new resources and policies, and RSVP has rolled out a new prevention education module called “Consent and Healthy Relationships.”  

“What we really wanted to see is how are we doing?” Van Orman said. “Not only are students experiencing [gender- and power-based harm], but when they do, do they know about resources on campus? Do they feel confident in resources on campus? … In the next four to five years, what should we be doing differently?”

Obtaining data allows Student Health to analyze what practices actually help patients and ensure their services are equitable. Van Orman said the pace of development for new technologies and apps is beginning to outpace the field’s ability to evaluate those new programs and services. 

“Public health and changing health, it’s a messy science,” Van Orman said. “It’s a lot less controlled than, ‘I’m gonna go in and give my zebrafish a chemical in the tank’ … It’s a very messy science, but it is a science, and we try to do it with a degree of rigor to make sure we are — where we can — understand the limitations and evaluating what we do.”

If you are in need of support, here are some resources you can contact:

USC Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services: Located at Engemann Student Health Center Suite 356. Individuals can call (213)-740-9355 and request to speak with an advocate or counselor. Services are confidential.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN): A free, confidential hotline that is active 24/7. Individuals can call (800)-656-4673

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