The UF Student Government Senate passed a resolution approving 24-hour access to morning-after pills via vending machines around campus and failed an amendment that would restore 24-hour access to Marston Science Library.
The resolution announced the Senate’s unilateral support of the emergency contraceptive initiative, but it does not require UF administration to provide vending machines with contraceptives. Senator Joe Andreoli (Change - Graduate), the bill’s author, said he would continue to work closely with the Student Health Care Center pharmacy and UF administration to see action come out of his legislation.
Fiona Harris, a 26-year-old UF PhD student and member of the National Women’s Liberation movement, spoke in support of the bill at Tuesday’s meeting by sharing her experience taking the morning-after pill. A vending machine would address price barriers, help consumers avoid social stigma and provide 24-hour access to emergency contraception, she said.
"In a post-Roe world,” Harris said, “it is critical to protect the people who are particularly vulnerable to restrictions to healthcare and abortion."
SHCC, located next to the Student Recreation Center and Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, provides emergency contraception at a reduced cost from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays during the Fall and Spring.
During the Summer, it is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with no weekend hours. The morning-after pill is 95% effective if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, but it becomes less effective over time. The vending machines would provide most adequate access for students, Andreoli said.
The overturn of Roe v. Wade prompted students to fight for their constitutional right to an abortion and call for a better response from leadership.
NWL pushed for vending machines with emergency contraception on campus in 2018, but that initiative failed. The University of Texas at Austin’s Student Government Assembly passed a similar resolution in April.
An amendment which may have returned Marston Science Library to its 24-hour availability, failed in the UF Student Government Senate Tuesday night.
In the past, Library West and Marston library have both been 24-hour libraries, but funding post COVID-19 has met resistance from UF administration and SG officials. Marston and Library West are currently open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. Marston closed its fourth and fifth floors this Summer for updates to furniture and power outlets.
The failed amendment, proposed by Change Party, would have allocated part of the 2023-2024 Activities and Service Fees budget to library support. The $130,000 fund would draw from cuts to the ACCENT Speakers Bureau and Student Government Productions program budgets.
Decreasing SGP and the Speakers Bureau funding, Budget Chairwoman Catherine Giordano said, would fundamentally change their ability to function in the upcoming fiscal year.
“The role of Student Government is to enhance the student experience outside of the academic setting, which SGP and Accent does,” Giordano said.
While opinions on the bill were mostly divided by party lines, Senator Oscar Santiago Perez (Change - District D) spoke against the bill in a public comment, stating the cost of extending library hours should be left in UF administration’s pockets, not SG’s. Santiago and members of the Budget & Appropriations Committee were concerned libraries could misuse funds, as the bill would not enforce the funds to be used to extend hours.
The proposed fund would not fully support a 24-hour open Marston, but it would contribute to the expansion of hours; funding from SG, the Provost and the libraries would be needed to support a 24-hour schedule Sunday through Thursday, Senator Grace Shoemaker (Change - Engineering) wrote in public comment.
In an unfinished 23-page report supporting the amendment, Shoemaker said students preferred a library setting, like Library West or Marston, to the SG-funded Newell Hall social study space because of space constraints and noise level. She plans to continue her monthslong research on the benefits of 24-hour libraries at UF on a larger scale in the Fall.
The budget is expected to pass next week with no library funding. The next Senate meeting will be held Tuesday 7 p.m. in the Recreational Sports Center, not in the Senate Chambers.
Sandra McDonald is a third-year journalism major and the Student Government reporter for the University Desk. This is her first semester at the Alligator. When she's not reporting, she's probably reading fantasy novels and listening to Taylor Swift.