Isabelle Jung/Sun Contributor

March 8, 2023

President Pollack Expresses Support for Plan B Vending Machine Resolution

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President Martha Pollack expressed support for Student Assembly’s Resolution 20 — which proposes increased access to nonprescription health care supplies, including contraception — in an email response to the S.A. on Tuesday.

“I support efforts to expand access to non-prescription health care supplies, including contraception,” Pollack wrote. “Cornell Health and campus partners are currently reviewing a proposal for such supplies to be made available via campus vending machines and I encourage your continued collaboration with them.”

The S.A. passed Resolution 20 on Thursday, Feb. 9, and the University Assembly conveyed their version of the proposal — Resolution 5 — to President Pollack on Thursday, March 2. 

According to an email obtained by The Sun, President Pollack responded to Duncan Cady ’23, chair of the U.A. and an S.A. undesignated representative-at-large, who also co-sponsored Resolution 5 and Resolution 20. 

On Monday, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly also passed Resolution 7, their version of the proposed resolution.

Resolution 20 aims to implement vending machines with nonprescription medicine and emergency contraception around campus. Several members of the S.A. — including Sanvi Bhardwaj ’24, the College of Human Ecology representative, and Shelby Lynn Williams ’25, a College of Arts and Sciences representative — said they were pleased by Pollack’s support of the resolution.

Bhardwaj emphasized the resolution’s importance in improving healthcare access at Cornell. 

“This is critical for increasing health accessibility and equity on campus, as Cornell Health is far for many students, not open 24/7 and the generic version of Plan B they carry is significantly cheaper than the name-brand version offered at most pharmacies,” Bhardwaj wrote in a statement to The Sun.

According to a survey conducted by Cornell University Planned Parenthood Generation Action, increased emergency contraception access is both necessary and desired.

Out of approximately 700 respondents from the Cornell community, 53.3 percent said that they have accessed emergency contraception for themselves or another person and 90.32 percent said that they would feel very comfortable or strongly comfortable accessing emergency contraception from a campus vending machine operated by Cornell Health.

Katherine Esterl ’24, co-president of PPGA, also noted that Cornell’s physical isolation from the greater-Ithaca area poses a transportation barrier for students seeking reproductive health care.

“It’s not like you can walk outside your dorm and walk five minutes to a CVS. And it’s also not like you can walk outside your dorm and walk five minutes to Cayuga Health to get an appointment with an M.D. gynecologist… even [going] downtown to the Planned Parenthood can be a barrier,” Esterl said. “I think the vending machines are a pretty easy fix for access.”

Bhardwaj, Williams and Cady also highlighted the resolution’s importance within the current political climate.

“I think this resolution is important as part of improving our University’s health access and health equality, but especially relevant post-COVID and post-Dobbs,” Cady, who is also a general body member of PPGA, told The Sun, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, ceasing the constitutional right to abortion in the United States.

Marley Levy ’24, PPGA general body member who helped develop the initial idea to implement vending machines, said that she hopes Pollack’s acknowledgment of Resolution 20 will be a first step toward greater reproductive health equity on campus, citing the President’s lack of support for S.A.’s Resolution 15 — which aimed to fund an M.D. gynecologist on campus. 

“I am pleased, yet surprised, at [Pollack’s] support of Resolution 20. I hope it is just the start [of] greater access of needed sexual and reproductive strides on campus,” Levy wrote in a statement to The Sun. “I would like to see measurable progress on this resolution before the end of the semester, as President Pollack said in her email to Student Assembly members.”

PPGA co-president Taisa Strouse ’24 also expressed surprise at Pollack’s support, adding that her support for Resolution 20 contradicts her refusal to accept Resolution 15.

“Her hypocrisy is clear,” Strouse wrote in a statement to The Sun. “The intention of the Plan B vending machine is based on the inaccessibility of Cornell Health — due to weekend closures and limited hours — and off-campus medical facilities. Thus, Pollack’s justification that there are ‘several gynecology providers in the Ithaca community’ in her refutation of Resolution 15 is unfounded and disappointing.”

Despite Pollack’s acknowledgment of the resolution, Bhardwaj expressed skepticism regarding whether the President’s support would lead to action.

“It definitely makes it easier to navigate Cornell’s bureaucracy, but her support is not a silver bullet — personally, I won’t be assured of progress until I actually see the vending machines on campus,” Bhardwaj told The Sun. 

Pedro Da Silveira ’25, the College of Engineering representative & vice president of internal operations for the S.A., wrote in a statement to The Sun that, beyond providing access to essential healthcare supplies, Resolution 20 reflects a larger attitude regarding students’ bodily autonomy.

“The core of this resolution isn’t necessarily about providing access to emergency contraception,” Da Silveira wrote. “It’s about empowering students to make their own healthcare decisions and take control of their own bodies.”

Correction, March 10, 1:03 p.m.: A previous version of this article did not introduce Pedro Da Silveira ’25. The Sun regrets this error, and the article has been corrected.