Very few outside of Pennsylvania have heard of Shippensburg University. To many, it's just a sign along Interstate 81 that's easy to miss. Never did I think there'd be a news item out of there that warrants posting here, but, voila!, the Red Raiders are in the national spotlight for stocking a vending machine with Plan B emergency contraceptive.
According to reports, on average, about 350 to 400 doses of the morning-after pill are being bought through the vending machine every year. The cost is significantly cheaper than at a pharmacy. Via the Public Opinion (the paper also has a photo of the vending machine in discussion, as seen above):
Located in a room inside the health center, the machine also holds condoms, cough drops, decongestant and pregnancy tests. It is not accessible to students after health center hours of operation. The health center is closed in the evenings, after 2 p.m. on Fridays and all weekend.
Serr said the machine was requested by the SU Student Association shortly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted a restriction on the pill that limited its non-prescriptive sale to individuals older than 18 in 2009.
"We had (the SA) come forward and say 'we think you should provide this,'" he said. "The vending machine is just a way to dispense it. It's provided, it's not necessarily promoted on a large scale." The pill can be legally sold over-the-counter to anyone 17 and older.Serr said convenience and the availability of the contraceptive in area pharmacies helped university decisionmakers decide to install the machine.
"(We got it) so that the people who wanted to use it can buy it," he said. "As long as the health fee didn't subsidize it. No student fee money goes in to these." A full time student's comprehensive health fee for this school year is $150, none of which is used to finance the sale of the pill. The university pays $25 to a pharmaceutical company for a dose of the medication, the same price given on the vending machine. CVS has the contraceptive marked at $39.99 a dose. Serr said that the approximate $10,000 made from the sale of the pill is used to buy more of the product.
The move is an impressively bold -- and unusual -- step for a public university that relies on state appropriated funding in a extremely socially conservative part of central Pennsylvania. As to be predicted, some are throwing arms up in outrage. But the goal here is comfort and privacy about a personal decision on the student's dime. Via the AP's report:
"We had some conversations with them and they did a survey of the student body, and we got an 85% response rate that the students supported Plan B in the House Center," says a university VP. As for the vending machines, officials says they allow students to feel more comfortable when making their purchase. The VP noted that the university doesn't profit from any sales, and added that, "We were uncomfortable providing it for free because that would mean we were supporting Plan B with either state money or fee money."
Are Plan B vending machines going to start popping up on campuses everywhere? Should they be? Brilliant, bold progressive step forward? Opinions in the comments, people.