Pomona Launches Wellness Room

The Wellness Room, equipped with a vending machine that sells the emergency contraceptive Plan B around the clock, opened Sept. 11 on the second floor of Pomona College’s Walker Hall Lounge. Both the Wellness Room and Walker Lounge will be accessible to students of all seven Claremont Colleges.

The college celebrated the opening day by hosting Dr. Sharon Camp PO ’65, who founded the company that developed and promoted Plan B. Camp shared a few remarks about the history of Plan B and answered questions from students and staff during the Wellness Room’s official opening in the late afternoon. Camp also gave a talk at the Women’s Union (WU) during lunch, titled “Doing it for Ourselves: The Story Behind Plan B.”

“I hope that what Pomona has done will get some publicity,” Camp said. “I hope the people at Pomona will reach out to other campuses around the country and talk about what you’ve done because this needs to happen everywhere.”

The vending machine offers Plan B, condoms and vibrators, along with a large selection of general health products such as chapstick and Neosporin. Plan B costs $20, the same price as at Student Health Services and significantly cheaper than its typical over-the-counter price. For instance, Walgreens sells Plan B for $49.99 and Walmart sells it for $46.87. The machine accepts Claremont Cash. 

Christopher Waugh, associate dean of students of Pomona College, stressed that no information will be collected when students swipe their ID cards to access the Wellness Room. 

The process of implementing the vending machine began in the spring of 2013 with impetus from Alex Samuels PO '15, the current Vice President of Finance for the Associated Students of Pomona College. 

“It started when a friend of mine sent me an article on Shippensburg University, which is the first place, or the only place, to have a dispenser of Plan B,” Samuels said.

Samuels worked with other ASPC members to get a 24/7 vending machine approved by the administration. He said that the approval was facilitated by the Supreme Court's decision to remove the age restriction on Plan B and by the sexual assault policy audit completed at Pomona by Tiombe Preston SC '95 in spring 2013. According to Samuels, Preston recommended easier access to Plan B on campus.

Because Plan B decreases 15 percent in its efficacy every 12 hours subsequent to intercourse, 24/7 availability was a priority for supporters of the vending machine. As Samuels pointed out, students having sex on Friday afternoon after the 5 p.m. closing time of Student Health Services would previously have had to wait 63 hours before taking Plan B—a treatment 75 percent less effective.

While the vending machine is certainly important within the context of the Claremont Colleges community, Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum wants students to be "mindful of the national context, too." She views the machine's installation as an extension of the continued fight for reproductive rights throughout the nation.

Camp echoed this view.

“We’ve gotten much too complacent about the rights that we … were fighting so hard to get,” Camp said. “Rights are something [that] if you don’t keep fighting for, you can lose.”

Students at the opening reacted positively.

"I think it’s something important for all college campuses," Della Anjeh PO ’16 said.

Delfina González PO ’17 said that she enjoyed talking in person to Camp.

“It was cool hearing the history of Plan B and how it came to market and all the advocacy work that had gone into it,” González said. “[Camp] is a really cool person, and I was glad I got to talk to her and hear her story. I think it’s an important step in terms of accessibility because I agree with what was said about the time that Plan B or condoms or any of those health needs will be in the weekends.”

Feldblum said that she wants the vending machine to be “responsive to student needs.” The machine will be checked weekly, and, according to Waugh, an email address and telephone number will be visible on the vending machine to allow for quick and easy feedback. 

“It means so much to come back to my alma mater after 50 years and see something so important and so out front,” Camp said. “I couldn’t be prouder of my alma mater.”