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SSIS advice column

Welcome back to the SSIS column, where we answer any and all of Brandeis students’ questions about sex, sexuality, identity and relationships. If you have a question you’d like answered in our next column, email ssis@brandeis.edu or leave a question in the Google Form link on our Facebook page (Student Sexuality Information Service). Any and all questions are welcome: there are no bad, stupid or weird questions!
(Note: These answers are good-faith attempts by SSIS to be helpful to the Brandeis community, and are by no means exhaustive or to be taken as universal. If these answers don’t resonate with you, either pay them no mind, or reach out to us with suggestions for improvement!)

How do you foster a welcoming, comfortable environment for students who might be nervous to come into SSIS?

This is such a great question! The nature of SSIS and the space itself can be somewhat intimidating for students, but all SSIS members are trained to help the Brandeis community to feel more comfortable in whatever way we can. It is our deepest desire to foster an environment in which every student who wishes to buy our products or seek out our peer support or referrals, etc. feels comfortable and safe to do so. There are a few specific ways in which we do this, and we’re of course always open to feedback and suggestions for improvement.

One of the most important ways we hope to make the Brandeis community comfortable and safe in our space is our belief and practice in confidentiality. What this means is that each of our counselors is mandated to never reveal details or identity of someone using our services to anyone—other SSIS-ers, their friends, administration, anyone. For instance, if Person A comes into the office with a question, no one will be aware of the specifics of this visit besides the two SSIS-ers who are in the office at the time and the visitor themselves (barring a situation in which they are at risk of causing harm to themself or to others). Another way confidentiality manifests is that, if you see an SSIS-er in your day-to-day life, they will never acknowledge that they recognize you from your SSIS visit unless you do so yourself first. Keeping a safe and confidential space in which to talk, learn and listen is one of the most important things we offer the Brandeis community.

There are also a myriad of ways people can access SSIS services if they’re less comfortable with going to our office hours. By texting (586) ASK-SSIS, or (586) 275-7747, you can coordinate a time with an SSIS member to meet outside our regular office hours. This may be a good option if interacting one-on-one with an SSIS-er sounds more preferable to you. Our texting line is also good for any questions you may have concerning sexuality and relationships; any question you send will be answered within 24 hours. We also offer ‘dorm raps,’ or visiting workshops, to any student organizations or dorm halls. If you’d like information presented in a small group setting, this is a great option! In all these services, our first priority is to serve Brandeis students’ sexual health and pleasure needs and concerns. We hope, then, students never fear judgment or feel discomfort, since it is our purpose and our mission to help all students, regardless of background or situation.

That said, we are also very much willing to change certain ways we run in order to make students more comfortable accessing our services. Last semester, for instance, an issue was raised by students expressing discomfort with having three SSIS members in the office. This felt intimidating/overwhelming to them, and that makes total sense! We now try to keep only two SSIS members in the office at any given time. If you have any ideas on what we can do to improve further, please email us at ssis@brandeis.edu. We exist to serve the Brandeis community’s sexual health and pleasure needs, so if there’s a way we can do that better, we would love to know!

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