Jennifer Boylan’s life revolves around activism, and now Zachariah Chou has joined in her enthusiasm. Their unlikely partnership came about over a petition for a Morning After Pill vending machine.
“We’re not asking for it for free. We’re asking for it for $10, which you’re already selling it at,” said Boylan, a University of Florida postdoctoral student and committee member of the National Women’s Liberation Gainesville chapter.
The idea for the vending machine gained traction in NWL’s January meeting with Boylan’s publicity and awareness initiatives. Her efforts paid off as student interest grew and support for the cause bolstered. It specifically caught the attention of one student government Murphree Area senator. Now Chou is the campus leader working with Boylan on the administrative side for the vending machine’s approval.
“I saw the piece the NWL published…that had a call to action of showing up at one of their meetings,” Chou said. “Then I showed up.”
NWL petitioned the University of Florida in February for the Morning After Pill to be dispensed on campus through vending machine access. It was their first significant step.
She and Chou then worked with UF Student Government to encourage more students into the cause. Throughout February and March, Boylan and Chou worked with advertising and administration for approval.
With that early momentum, now Boylan and Chou recognize the challenges ahead.
No building management or administration has approved the MAP vending machine. And even when a location is approved, NWL must approach UF Student Government and the pharmacy about funding the machine.
But those hurdles have not diluted their push.
Boylan and Chou approached UF’s GatorWell, the pharmacy and the Reitz Union. Each location advised them to go to the next. Yet in their search, one campus building stood out as a potential site for the machine — Newell Hall. Boylan noted it was ideal because of its central location on campus and 24 hours access.
They are now in discussion with Newell Hall and Chou has been consulting with Kayleigh Damphousse from the Dean of Students Office. Though a decision hasn’t been made by Newell Hall, Chou said that Damphousse urged them to organize a Newell Student Advisory Board meeting to get a general consensus.
“Newell Hall is student managed and run, so it is most important to receive their input,” Damphousse said. “The Board is intrigued by this service for students, but still needs some details to be worked out before moving forward.”
Interest in MAP vending machines has increased on campus within the past month. The on-campus Planned Parenthood offered to help NWL’s cause, according to Boylan.
“If UF could do it, then FSU could do it, University of Miami could do it, UGA could do it,” Boylan said.
In the petition created by Boylan and NWL, it proposed that the vending machine’s purpose is to provide 24/7 access to anyone, without a student I.D.
“Having it in a vending machine, you don’t have to interact with anybody,” Boylan said. “You don’t have to talk to anybody. You don’t have to talk to dudes. Men can buy it if it’s in a publicly accessible place, and maybe they would think this is something that applies to them.”
Their petition also suggested that the machines could be profitable. If UF Student Government covered half the cost with their budget or fees and the UF pharmacy covered the other half, the investment could result in a steady revenue source. Other fees Boylan mentioned would include an initial engineering fee to ensure credit card function and any long-term maintenance fees.
According to Boylan, preexisting contracts between UF and certain companies, like Pepsi, led NWL to propose that UF purchase an independent vending machine. UF’s pharmacy has an account with Sam’s Club, said Boylan, so purchasing a vending machine there would cost between $4,000 and $4,500.
Moving forward, Boylan said the NWL plans to gather online testimonies about student use and effectiveness of MAP. Then, they hope to hold a speak-out on campus.
“It can get bigger,” Boylan said. “It will get bigger.”