Resolution passes in support of emergency contraception on campus

The new distribution method comes after a vetoed vending machine.

A vending machine containing Plan B, a prominent contraception brand. Illustration by McKenzie Newton

A request for support of peer-to-peer distribution of emergency contraception provided by the Women and Gender Equity Center was passed 11-4 by UNO’s student senate late Thursday evening, the culmination of a failed emergency contraception vending machine project that had been over half a year in the making.

While a win for the WGEC, it comes as a compromise to the original vision for distribution.

The emergency contraception vending machine was presented to student commissioners, student organization members and faculty during open Student Activities Budget Commission meetings in March. It was touted as being “crucial for student retention,” and would be installed in H&K. An emergency contraception pill would cost a student between $5-$7 with a bulk purchasing price of $4.75 per unit.

According to the American Society for Emergency Contraception, at least 37 universities across America already host similar machines to the proposed, and sister school UNL sells emergency contraception for $20 a pop in their university pharmacy. 

The machine did not however come to fruition at UNO.

According to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, no vending machine has been approved due to “a number of challenges including location, liability, privacy considerations, maintenance and supply considerations, and the university’s right to regulate its own property.”

WGEC Student Director Zoe Miller and former Co-Director Isha Dhakal claim that the machine got the go-ahead in Feb., after a meeting with Dean of Students Cathy Pettid. Reportedly, only a few planning stages remained such as the implementation of credit card and possibly MavCard payment systems.

“It was my understanding the vending machine was already approved, and this was just the final step before we could put it H&K,” Dhakal said. “We already had meetings with different people in that building to ensure we could use that space.” 

The vending machine itself was donor-funded and emergency contraception products were expected to pay for themselves after initial donations. The WGEC requested $3,000 intended for upkeep of the machine, a $2,500 bump to their sexual health resources line item from the previous year. The budget was approved with those considerations in mind.

“Two years ago, the previous co-directors had an idea of, Hey, we should get Plan B on campus,” Miller said. “It’s something that a lot of students request from us that we’re not able to help them with. “It’s really frustrating.”

On Monday, July 3, the WGEC’s plan for the machine blew up after a meeting including WGEC Advisor Alexandra Pecoraro, Student Body President Hakim Lotoro, Miller, Pettid and Associate Dean of Students Trent Frederickson.

“My gut reaction after walking through this with Associate Deputy Counsel Bren Chambers was I think it’s going to get stalled and, at the end of the day, you’re gonna get a no,” Pettid said in a recording attached to the resolution.

Today that maintenance money remains available, and a check greater than $3,500 provided by an anonymous donor remains uncashed. 

“I mean, we kind of hit all the checkboxes. Distributing over-the-counter medicine is not illegal and it’s something anyone can do without getting in trouble for it,” Miller said.

Pettid expressed concern about existing vending machine contracts the current political climate and UNO being a public university.

“Providing the space for it, the electricity that is used and the people power that would be required to exchange money in the account. That’s where I think it’s gonna get really bogged down with our lawyers,” said Pettid.

A contraception vending machine won’t be happening in the near future, but a majority of the student senate voted to support WGEC in the planned distribution of contraceptions through the organization’s already established Essential Supply Program. The ESP distributes sexual health products such as menstrual cups, tampons, pads, and pregnancy tests at many UNO events and through the WGEC office in Milo Bail Student Center.

An open forum lasting around 40 minutes Thursday night allowed students to voice their opinions on the matter.

In opposition were students such as Abbie Russman who asked senators to think about how people on the other side of the political spectrum feel about incorporating ‘plan B’ on campus.

“It’s hard to feel comfortable being involved,” Russman said.

UNO student Delaney Volnek stated she wouldn’t have been standing before the senate if her mother had taken emergency contraception at age 18.

“She would feel like her only choice was to take this pill,” said Volnek.

Others such as Brady Dodds shared their story of assault two weeks in as a freshman at UNO and how taking emergency contraception saved them from that burden, and possibly suicide.

The passed resolution states “the WGEC will start distributing OTC EC to students by request through their office in Milo Bail 114 within five business days of this resolution passing.”

For further inquiries email us at