TU installs Wellness Machine on campus

The Wellness Machine contains menstrual and sexual health products for students.

A ribbon cutting ceremony marked the opening of the Wellness Machine on the east end of the Student Union on Feb. 13. The vending machine provides latex and non-latex condoms, EContra One-Step (morning-after pill), pregnancy tests, lube, vanilla and mint flavored dental dams, internal condoms, period products, hand sanitizer and informational pamphlets.

Evren Shermer, a Peer Health Educator for the Take Control Initiative, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and described the event as “a colorful and inviting ceremony well-attended by TU students.”

The Wellness Machine was brought to TU by the Student Government Association’s University Improvements Committee (UIC) in conjunction with the Take Control Initiative (TCI). The vending machine has been a long time coming, according to Danny Nguyen, a member of the UIC, who said that the project was “started a few years ago but never was finished.” Nguyen stated, “The Chair of UIC, Hannah Grenier, had reintroduced it last semester.”

“My committee and I’s role was being a liaison between TCI and TU students. We gave our feedback on concerns like what kind of items students would need and want from it, where the optimal location for students to have access to it would be, how to best promote it, among other things,” Nguyen claimed. When I asked how the committee gauged what products students would want in the machine, I expected to hear about student surveys being conducted. Nguyen responded that they had “brainstormed general health products, looked at what other organizations have done, what TCI had available to donate, and discussed with a few others their ideas and opinions.” I asked students what else they would like to see in the Wellness Machine, and a couple students said they would like to see different sized condoms available as well.

Lindsey Cain, Program Coordinator for the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) spoke with me about the challenges of getting the Wellness Machine installed on campus. “In any discussion of reproductive health, there can be many large feelings and/or hesitations. While I do not have any first hand knowledge, I feel it’s safe to say that not everyone feels the same way about reproductive health in Oklahoma. Whether for or against women’s reproductive freedom, I think it’s important not to restrict urgent healthcare from those who need it. Everyone has a different physical body, mental health status, and life experiences that lead them to their own decision making. Unfortunately, women’s reproductive healthcare has become so politicized everyone feels they have a say. I feel strongly that the person who should have the most say is the person accessing the medication and/or medical service,” Cain stated.

I wholeheartedly agree with Cain, as I am for reproductive freedom. I am glad that these organizations are supporting TU students by providing free sexual and menstrual health products for everyone, regardless of gender and sexuality. The Wellness Machine does not require the use of a TU ID or ID number, which allows students to take what they need without the feeling of their privacy being breached.

I wondered if there was any fear of the machine being raided, perhaps by people that do not agree with its installation on campus. Cain stated, “Personally, I don’t fear a raid. I have concerns that people will not be able to put their personal feelings and/or judgment aside. There are endless reasons why someone may need or want to use the wellness vending machine. Their needs and privacy should remain safe and protected.”

I am a Peer Health Educator for the Take Control Initiative myself, and I believe that sexual and reproductive health are paramount, despite the politics and judgment of anyone who feels they have control over anyone’s body other than their own. The Wellness Machine is a great way to promote these ideals at TU. I am a huge proponent for free menstrual products and free contraception as well, which will further equitable access to birth control and thereby promote community health.

If you require one of the products in the Wellness Machine, just enter 2023# then enter the item number followed by #.

Post Author: Shelby Hiens