The new vending machines around campus are stocked with chips, candy bars, dried fruit trail mix, and, for the first time on the Johnson campus, condoms.
In April, Prestige Vending notified NVU-Johnson that they would be taking away their machines. It was too far out of the way for their route drivers. Dean of Students Jonathan Davis looked at offers from two local companies to replace them.
“One of our requirements was that the machines be able to support the use of debit cards and credit cards in addition to coin,” said Davis, “and we needed a minimum number of machines across the campus. We also wanted to be able to negotiate the types of products and make sure that there were some healthy options in addition to your standard vending.”
Davis, who had served as Lyndon’s Dean of Students prior to unification, eventually chose North Country Vending out of St. Johnsbury, the company that services the Lyndon campus. Davis asked them to include the condoms. “We’ve done that on the Lyndon campus for a few years, and found that to be fairly successful.”
The condoms cost $2 for a package of two, which is in line with standard condom prices, though they are generally cheaper in larger packages. A North Country Vending employee couldn’t give exact figures, but estimated that condom sales at Lyndon were “somewhat successful,” and said that the condoms “definitely do sell.”
There’s no money being exchanged between North Country and NVU for the vending machines. North Country gets to put their machines on campus and keep the profit. Though Davis says there were talks about commissions on some items to buy equipment for student activities, “We were already thinking that prices are high on some items, and we did not want to go any higher just to make a profit back.”
Davis thinks having vending machines are useful. “Not everyone has a meal plan, not everyone is utilizing our campus during hours when the cafe or dining hall is open, and it’s important to offer something for people,” he said.
As of now, the Wellness Center in Senators South is the only other place on campus where condoms are consistently available. There are baskets full of free condoms in the waiting rooms and bathrooms. Kate McCarthy, the Wellness Center’s director, has also worked with some RAs to bring free condoms to their residence halls.
McCarthy is all in favor of condoms being available in vending machines. “There should be good, easy access to condoms, “she said. “And I’m glad that that’s expanded beyond the Wellness Center, because we are not open and available all the time. But we still definitely encourage students to come down here and access the condoms that we have, which are free.”
Both McCarthy and Davis said they have not received any pushback against condom availability.
“We are on a college campus. Students are sexually active,” said McCarthy, “and if, then, we know that that is happening on campus, I think down in the Wellness Center, we have a responsibility to have access to condoms. That allows students to have safe sex in order to help prevent pregnancy and disease.”