An Informal History of the SHPRC

By Carole Pertofsky, Director of Health and Wellness Promotion at Vaden Health Center
Back in the mid-70’s, women and men were gifted with the birth control pill. It was revolutionary, in that for the first time, women were in control of their own ability to decide whether and when to have children. That was the key to the Sexual Revolution, fueled by the ideals and principles of Feminism. Young people were empowering themselves by saying YES to Civil Rights, NO to war, and YES to sexual freedom and the right to choose. It was an equally invigorating and very controversial era.

In response, a group of Stanford students started the “CIC: Contraceptive Information Center”. The CIC was in the Fire Truck House, then at some point, several doctors and nurses at the Student Health Center (then called COWELL) wanted to support their work. When I arrived at Stanford in 1992, the group was in Cowell with an branch at the Fire Truck House, called Ye Old Safer Sex Shoppe… AIDS was then understood as a great menace to the health of college students. In the mid-90’s, with everyone’s “blessings” the student groups decided to merge and in response to student needs, broadened the mission from contraception to the full range of Sexual Health and voile- became the SHPRC. Do you guys still offer “Rubberware Parties?” That’s what the SHPRC outreaches that demonstrated the goodies were called then.

In 1993, I launched the HIV peer counseling program; we tossed around the pros and cons of including that as a SHPRC service. Everyone eventually agreed that due to the differences in training, supervision and oversight by professional staff needed by HIV counseling, and the desire to maintain SHPRC as a student-run organization, we decided to keep them separate. I describe the relationship of HPS to those groups as quite different: HPS Staff “supervise” HIV*PACT, whereas HPS and the SHPRC are partners and HPS is here to offer advice and support on an as -needed basis. We’ve always had a great relationship and joined together for many student programs, events, trainings and promoting each other’s services.

During the early 90’s, the PSYCH dept had a clinical psych program. In the late 90’s they closed down the program to develop a research-focused department, and all courses that dealt with the emotional well being of real people, rather than poor little lab rats, were given marching orders. Off we went, courses for the BRIDGE, the PHEs, SHPRC, HIV counselors, etc. Eventually we found new homes.

I’m sure there are always students, faculty and staff that yearn for the good old days, when religion controlled our behavior, when women (and men) were subjugated to outdated and oppressive patriarchial laws, rules and social mores. Where women had to go to Mexico or to back alleys to get abortions. But it’s been my experience, at least in my Student Affairs world , and specially student health, that medical, psychological and health education practitioners are here to offer care, support and education to students for their health and well being.

So that’s what I can offer about the SHPRC’s proud history. ROCK ON!

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