UNI, like other regent universities, has gone through a series of budget cuts from the Iowa Board of Regents and has been trimming down on services, jobs and salaries to make up for the lost revenue. Last year the university stopped offering free sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing on campus at the Student Health Center. Although the Health Center still offers STD testing, they now bill students’ insurance.
Many students are still upset about the cut and the risks it poses to campus. Senior environmental resource management major Lindsey Hubbell said, “It really just deters people from getting it. You can get it if you have insurance, but some people don’t want it to show up on their parents’ insurance policy, or some people can’t afford insurance.”
The Student Health Center website directs students to the Black Hawk County Health Department for free testing. Their STD clinic is in Waterloo and virtually inaccessible to students without cars. Hubbell said, “Sexual safety is such a taboo topic that people are so shy about, if you put any obstacles or barriers in the way of it then they’re just not gonna do it.”
Free testing on UNI campus made the process easy and convenient, and students like Hubbell are concerned that removing the service will increase the spread of STDs at the university. The pandemic has shown the importance of having readily available testing.
A new study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that, due to lower rates of sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing during the pandemic, tens of thousands of cases of chlamydia and gonnorhea were missed. As Hubbell said, “I feel like not offering free testing is just asking for an outbreak on our campus.”
The latest casualty in UNI’s funding struggle is TheatreUNI, which is struggling to operate but unable to hire new faculty due to budget constraints. Two years ago UNI tried to axe Safe Ride, a weekend late-night shuttle service that offers free rides to students. After pushback from students, Safe Ride was saved, and others like Hubbell hope to do the same with free STD testing.