When I arrived at Shippensburg University as a sophomore in August 2009, I saw Etter, the campus health center, as another unnecessary $200 fee being thrown onto my tuition. Almost three years later, instead of saying that I go to a small college in south central Pennsylvania, I can say that I go to the school with Plan B in a vending machine. Talk about notoriety.
The machine, which has been in place for over two years, has garnered national media attention after a reporter from a local paper broke the story on Friday, February 3rd. By the following Tuesday morning, links to the story were available on CNN's website and Jay Leno mentioned the school on his evening monologue.
When I arrived on campus that day, I saw trucks for local news stations. My senior capstone class erupted into a discussion about tiny little Shippensburg hitting the big time.
An article later appeared on the blog for the TV show Tosh.0, containing the line, "Because let's be honest, if you're enrolled at Shippensburg University, this isn't the first time in life you've gone with plan B." While I found this quip amusing, Ship having certainly not been my original plan for college, some took offense and shot back with "Ship was my Plan A!"
The craziness continued this past weekend, when we were mentioned on SNL's Weekend Update with Seth Meyers.
Now, to set aside all of the inevitable jokes, the vending machine is NOT in a student common area, surrounded by similar machines dispensing candy bars and potato chips. It's located in Etter Health Center, which requires student ID be shown for admittance. From there, students can access the machine by going to the self-diagnosis room, which also contains aspirin, cough drops, and information on what to do for various minor illnesses. For $25, students are able to purchase Plan B.
I fully applaud my school for realizing that yes, students are going to have unprotected sex, and yes, they should have access to contraceptives. What I don't agree with is HOW they've gone about distributing it.
In "the real world", if I want to get Plan B, I have to go to a pharmacy and make contact with an actual pharmacist before purchasing it. While I'm certainly smart enough to read the health warnings on the side of a box, who's to say the same is true for all of my fellow students? Ship certainly isn't the only school to offer Plan B to its students, but it appears to be unique in its method of distribution.
My fear is that a student who is going with their gut (as we young adults are apt to do), will see the convenience of Plan B in the vending machine as the quickest, most effective option of birth control without taking the time to speak with anyone about the decision- be it a friend or a health center employee.
Now, the Federal Drug Administration is planning to investigate the situation further. Our university's president emailed a statement to the campus community on Thursday, saying "I have contacted the FDA and invited officials to come to campus and review our dispensing practices. Yesterday, we began our evaluation in a meeting with various members of the campus community, including students, faculty, medical staff and others. Our evaluation will involve contacting other colleges and universities nationwide about their delivery method."
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