A student group at Brandeis University wants to install a vending machine on the school’s Waltham campus that would dispense health care products like Plan B, the emergency contraceptive used to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex.
Samantha Lauring, a member of Brandeis Pro-Choice, the activism club making the push, said the group has received a $5,000 grant from Planned Parenthood to move ahead with the proposal. The students still need to sit down with the school’s administration and hash out additional details, but the aim is to have the machine in place by the end of the academic year.
“So far the administration has been very receptive,” Lauring said. “We are gathering support, asking students for testimony to support this, and we want to compile that and bring it to the administration.”
Lauring said Brandeis Pro-Choice decided on this project because the school’s student health center is only open during specific times on the weekdays, and is closed entirely on weekends. It also only gives Plan B to female students.
Having a vending machine, she argued, would increase access to health care products when students might need them most. It would also allow students to purchase it more discreetly and without judgment.
The vending machine wouldn’t be limited to Plan B — other health and wellness products would also be available to students with expediency, including things like Tylenol, she said.
“When we heard Plan B access was hard to obtain sometimes, we saw it as the perfect opportunity to maybe help students lower that barrier, and just have it accessible to them at all times of the day, everyday,” she said.
Lauring said the student group first came up with the idea several months ago, after reading about schools in California that have already deployed similar units, making Plan B and other generic brands easily accessible at all hours to students.
According to the New York Times, Stanford University unveiled a vending machine where the morning-after pill could be obtained in September. The move followed the footsteps of the University of California, Santa Barbara; and the University of California, Davis, the report said.
Parteek Singh, a recent graduate of U.C. Davis, spearheaded efforts there, the Times said.
Lauring said her group reached out to Singh for advice about their own initiative, before later applying for a Campus Campaigns grant, a program sponsored by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, to get the ball rolling.
Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts said in a statement it will help Brandeis Pro-Choice throughout the process as needed and guide the students in developing “strategies and solutions to make their plan a reality.”
“We believe by helping young people take action on their campuses, we give them the tools they need to seize opportunities to make a difference at the state and national level,” the group said.
Plan B has been available over the counter since 2013.
In a statement Thursday, Brandeis officials said the school is backing the project.
“Brandeis has offered Plan B through our health center as long as it has been available,” said Sheryl Sousa, vice president for student affairs. “We applaud our students’ initiative and are working with them on the logistics of making Plan B available from a vending machine on campus.”
If the plan moves ahead, Lauring hopes to station it inside the school’s Shapiro Campus Center.
“We still have a lot more meetings and logistics to work out so hopefully it continues to be a really supportive path,” Lauring said. “But I would say we are moving quickly and we have a lot of student support.”Steve Annear can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.