June 15, 2024

Club Week: SHAG provides sexual education to UT students

In the second feature of TNJN’s Club Week, managing and arts and culture editor, Hannah Hunnicutt profiles the Sexual Health Advisory Group (SHAG) at UT. The club aims to spread awareness of sexual education on campus.

Members of SHAG Kelsey French, Amanda Alarcon and Abbey Geater. // Photo courtesy of Amanda Alarcon

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Amanda Alarcon and Victoria Long have noticed the lack of sexual education on UT’s campus. That’s why Alarcon joined the Sexual Health Advisory Group (SHAG) during her freshman year in 2012. Since then, she has been asked many questions about sexual health, including what a condom was.

Long transferred to UT from Pellissippi State in fall 2014. She had a class with Alarcon, and after having a discussion about sexual education she convinced Long to join SHAG. Now running as the organization’s co-chairs, the two hope to spread awareness about sexual health on campus.

“I think it is a huge problem that we don’t have this focus,” Long said. “This is about people’s health and about people’s lives, and so that’s why we do what we do.”

SHAG is a student-ran program through Planned Parenthood Generation Action to provide unbiased, non-judgmental and medically accurate sexual education and to advocate for sexuality issues affecting peers on UT’s campus, said Alarcon.

“We are all sexual beings, whether that’s remaining abstinent or not abstinent,” she said. “People don’t have the tools to take charge of their health which is scary. That’s a huge issue, and I think unfortunately a lot of people don’t realize that.”

This semester SHAG holds bi-weekly meetings, ranging from educational seminars to advocacy brainstorming, Fridays at 7 p.m. in Hodges 220E. One of the recent issues SHAG advocated for was the “Vote No on One” campaign that fought against Tennessee’s Amendment 1 bill that was passed at the beginning of this year.

“Even though it did pass our work isn’t done,” Long said. “We’re still here trying to fight the legislation that comes through.”

The organization is beginning to brainstorm ideas on how to reach out to UT’s community for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

SHAG member, Lauren Huguenard and co-chair, Victoria Long set up a table to show their support for Planned Parenthood. //Photo courtesy of SHAG
SHAG member, Lauren Huguenard and co-chair, Victoria Long set up a table to show their support for Planned Parenthood. //Photo courtesy of SHAG

SHAG also hosts other educational events including Dorm Storms, where resident advisors or hall directors have members of SHAG discuss educational topics with residents. Subjects range from overarching topics on sexual education, including sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention, different birth control methods and healthy relationships, according to Alarcon.

“In the state of Tennessee, its abstinence-only education and often times, unfortunately, it’s very judgmental and it is not inclusive by any means,” she said. “(People) have never really been introduced to it before.”

Every educator has been trained in sexual education, and can answer questions ranging from birth control and reproductive rights to why it is important for a person with a cervix to get a Pap smear.

“We try to, through education, not only just educate our members but give them the tools to be able to go out and educate their friends,” she said.

For more information about SHAG, visit the organization’s Facebook page, SHAG: Sexxual Health Advisory Group of UTK, or email an executive at shag@utk.edu

Featured image courtesy of Amanda Alarcon

Edited by Jessica Carr

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