“Have you stopped by the College Center vending machines lately?” asked the VSA to the student body in a Facebook post on Nov. 1. “We’ve placed a ~very~ special present there for you that we hope will come in handy.”
Located in the College Center next to the Campus Activities desk and the Computing Center, the VSA’s special present comes in the form of a newly installed vending machine, which holds a variety of basic living supplies that many college students need, including medicine, tampons, first aid kits and personal hygiene products.
The need for creating such an alternative means of obtaining these miscellaneous items has increased greatly in the minds of students in recent years, as the number of places selling them on campus has diminished. After the Vassar bookstore located beneath the College closed before the start of last year to make room for yet-upcoming student spaces, there was no official vendor of non-food products like medicines and travel-size hygiene kits on campus. Since then, these products have been primarily sold at the College’s current store, the Vassar Juliet.
Since the move, many have argued that, although the new college bookstore offers a wide variety of essential and nonessential products for Vassar’s 2,500 students, major time and location problems have arisen. VSA VP for Operations Ruby Pierce ’16, who was heavily involved in the discussions about and planning of the machine’s arrival, explained that the major problem with the Vassar Juliet is that it is located off-campus, which can be an inconvenient distance away for those who may need quick solutions to basic living problems but may not have the time to make the journey to Raymond Avenue.
Joshua Austin ’18, who was seen picking up Vaseline and cough drops from the new vending machine, commented that the location has irritated him in the past. “The expectation for students to have to hike to the Juliet to get things that should be readily available here is pretty ridiculous, if you ask me,” he posited. “I’m feeling a little under the weather right now, just as an example. Unless I was just content to feel sickly, I’d have to either go to Baldwin, which I don’t have time to do, or make a 30-minute trip off-campus just to get the supplies I need. How is that a system that works?”
He continued, “Basic living supplies like this new machine has shouldn’t be an inconvenience to have to buy at college. They should be ready whenever people need them, in places where people can get to them without having to compromise other things in their daily routine.”
Similarly, many community members have complained that the 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours of the store can also make it much more difficult for students to shop for basic living supplies during weekdays. “There was always a significant problem with getting these items at odd hours, even when the bookstore was still on campus,” Pierce explained. “The vending machine is available to all students, at all times. This way, people can get emergency items when they need them!”
As a response to student concerns regarding the availability of such goods on campus, the VSA spearheaded discussions with Director of the College Center and Associate Director of Campus Activities Michelle Ransom and Director of Campus Activities Teresa Quinn towards finding a solution to the growing necessity. VSA Council then drafted a resolution earlier this year that committed the VSA Operations Committee to a one-year trial run for a student-run store on campus that would sell things students felt they lacked on campus. The resolution, authored by South Commons President Joshua Sherman ’16 [full disclosure: Sherman is a staff columnist for The Miscellany News], read, “[T]here would be a significant positive impact of student quality of life to give access to a 24hour, VCash accessible vending machine or other unattended sales space for office supplies, stamps, over the counter medication and other miscellaneous items…”
As Sherman put it, “[T]he goal here is to make these things accessible while trying to ensure it’s a reasonable financial option for students here.” The South Commons President was also involved with working towards the new machine’s installment with the Campus Activities Office as well, which believed it to be an idea worth pursuing and offered to foot the bill. According to Ransom, Campus Activities requested from the VSA a list of products students would want, then she herself met with Triple J Vending to work out pricing and distribution details.
With the machine now up and running, many students have lauded the initiative as a successful venture, and one worth developing further. “There should be one of these in every dorm,” Austin remarked. “It provides available resources that affect our quality of life as students probably more than we realize. I don’t think it’s a replacement for an actual store itself, but it doesn’t have to. It’s quick and easy, and gets the job done.”
Pierce confirmed at a VSA Council meeting on Nov. 1 that the success of the new vending machine has inspired development of new and greater plans. She later remarked, “There will be another vending machine, filled with food items chosen by the student body. There will be a survey available for [student] input via email and Facebook!” As Austin summed up, “This was exactly what students need, and have been waiting for!”