Good news for students looking for free condoms and advice about sex—the Peer Advocacy for Sexual Health Center is coming back this week.

Although PASH’s new location in the Oasis at Bell Tower residence hall was open last Spring, logistical difficulties have prevented the center from operating so far this semester. Senior Adriana Parker, co-president of PASH, explained that the center has been waiting to hear about its application to become a chartered organization under the Student Organization Finance Committee, which will help streamline its funding. 

“It’s easier to get funding requests when you have a page on Duke Groups and have your own fund code,” Parker said. “It would make us more self sufficient.”

PASH is currently a registered group under SOFC, which means it has to reapply for programming funds every year. Becoming a chartered group will allow it to receive a funding allocation from the SOFC annual budget. 

The additional funding is crucial to PASH because it allows the center to host events and restock safe sex supplies and brochures, Parker explained.

The group's charter application is still under review. However, PASH’s advisor Maralis Mercado, student development coordinator at the Duke Student Wellness Center, recently told the group that it could go ahead and reopen because the charter application might be a lengthy process, she explained. Because PASH’s location is in the Oasis—which is a self-care space—DuWell determines when they can actually operate. 

The center plans to be open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, which coincides with times that the Oasis is open. Later in the semester, the group may extend its hours until 9 p.m. 

“We noticed that since we moved to East our visitation has been a lot lower,” Parker said. “The center on West was more accessible, but we still had people come by.”

PASH previously operated in Griffin House on West Campus in a repurposed common room but had to relocate due to renovations to Crowell quadrangle. 

Parker noted that PASH is working to better publicize the new location and plans to target first-years especially, so they know about the resource early in their Duke careers. In addition, PASH  plans to open a “pop-up” shop in the new Student Health and Wellness Center for a few hours each week. 

There are currently about 30 peer educators trained to work at the center, but Parker explained that about half are currently abroad. The house course required to be a staff member is currently training 15 new peer educators in its fourth semester of being offered.

“It’s mostly sophomores and juniors, and they’re really engaged,” said junior Adam Bullock, one of the instructors this semester. “They really seem to care about the material.”

He explained that the training course includes guest lectures in addition to the lessons he and his co-instructor teach. For example, the class hosted representatives from the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, the Title IX Office and Student Health.  

The course is a way PASH ensures it has adequate staff, as those who sign up for the class make a commitment to work at least one semester following their completion. Bullock noted that he hopes they decide to continue after the required semester and that many do. 

Along with opening the center, PASH plans to co-sponsor events with more established organizations on campus to help get its name out, Bullock explained. The center is co-hosting an event called “Take Back the Nightlife” with the Women’s Center on Oct. 25, which will feature music, dance and poetry. 

Parker noted that PASH also hopes to host education events like their Cookies and Condoms session which features anatomy-shaped cookies as well as condom demonstrations and giveaways. The PASH website also has a tool that allows students to submit questions to be answered by peer educators. 

The recent logistical difficulties are not the only problems PASH has faced. The center initially created controversy in Duke Student Government when it was first proposed, as some senators found the funding of sexual items to be inappropriate. There was also confusion that PASH would be selling pleasure products, which it is not allowed to do. However, it does have a range of vibrators and other sex toys that are demonstrative only.

Bullock noted that he doesn't hear much about the controversy anymore. 

“PASH members and people who care about that remember it and refer to it and sometimes joke about it,” he said. “I don't think it has much of a stigma though. A lot of people who stirred controversy when it started have graduated or aren't thinking about PASH ever.”

Moving forward, Bullock said he hopes PASH continues its focus on counseling but also becomes more active in promoting sexual health on campus. 

“As much as I think the one-on-one counseling opportunities are amazing, there’s only going to be a certain segment comfortable doing that,” he said. “I want PASH to be really active in advocacy around sexual wellness.”

Parker noted a main goal for her is to see PASH’s attendance numbers increase. 

“I hope we get people not just to pick up supplies but also to use us for peer education, as opposed to people just coming by to look at pleasure products,” she said.