Monday, June 3, 2013

This School has got your back: Plan B and Sexual Assault Support

Target Publication: Jezebel
Word Count: 805 (without event)

The US is obsessed with Plan B, Abortion and other such things right now (aka, as always) and the current debates have sparked us all. At one little school in the homey Midwest, Kalamazoo College, is pushing the trend with a new on-campus group: S3A. Which stands for Sexual Safety and Support Alliance, is avoiding all the ridiculous drugstore prices and has managed to get real live students to sell Plan B for 15 bucks!

Let me state that I indeed, attend the college, called “K” by its student, and despite not having bought Plan B myself, I did make a stressful trek with a friend in my first-year to get the pill. This is rockin’ for college students. Not just at Kalamazoo, but for every student that ever had to wasted dollars and time getting their hands on this pill.

As part of my investigation, this reporter called the nearest drugstore to K College- a full 18 minutes walk away- and then suffered through 11 minutes phone call to discover the pill costs 47 dollars and some change. A grand 32 dollars more than the campus group can sell it for.  

The group started selling the emergency contraception at the beginning of the spring trimester, in March, amongst the ongoing court cases regarding the FDA. Judge Edward Korman most recently ruled to have the drug carried on drugstore shelves to all women over the age of 15, which will stay in effect until the current appeal by the Justice Department is ruled upon.

Unlike other campuses like Shippensburg University, which gained national attention for a Plan B vending machine, K avoided many troubles by allowing students to sell the pill. At Shippensburg, questions were raised over the availability of the drug to non-University students or students under the previous FDA requirement of 17-years of age. The school now makes students swipe their student ID before purchase, and the price is still much higher than at K College, 25 dollars.

Rachel Evans, a Junior at K and one of the first members of S3A told me the campus Health Center, who has always offered the pill for that price, said: “It’s a problem because they’re only open until 4 or 5 every day, and not on the weekends.” (And, duh, on most college campuses, when do students have time for sex other than the weekends?)

S3A created after administrators decided the campus needed space for sexual assault survivors. Evans explains she and her 8 co-workers aim to: “Be an open ear for people and if people do want to do something about [sexual assault], like pursue it in the legal system or at school, we can help them with that.”

Morgan Mahdavi, another Junior at the school, is involved with a furthering of S3A’s mission, is hoping to capitalize on the schools open-mindedness. [Insert events of Wed’s meeting on a Sexual Assault support group planning meeting plus interview with Morgan-already conducted].

Wait, can we come back to that this campus is in the Mid-West? K College is only a couple hours south of “A baby dies every 10 seconds” and other overt anti-abortion and pro-life campaigners. As Evans, who is from Ann Arbor sums up: “This is a somewhat conservative side of the state at least, and I don’t know how comfortable people would be going to the drugstore.” Yet, for some strange and unknown reason, the students and some members of the administration for this kind of cutting edge discussion to occur on campus.

“These issues are coming to the forefront…it’s becoming something that a lot of people on campus are very comfortable talking about and able to discuss. It amazes me,” Mahdavi said, sitting in Biggby Coffee, the coffee joint hidden in a corner of K Colleges Library.

Even men, who are often excluded from discussions or understanding of sexual assault or are somehow perceived as outsiders in this discussion, are getting in the loop at K. During Take Back the Night (which every reader should know about), the yearly event where women speak up about sexual assault and march the streets to reclaim spaces typically seen as unsafe for women, a men’s group on the campus promoted an event to help men understand their role in the fight against sexual assault.

Mahdavi, who spoke about her own experiences with sexual assault at K’s Take Back the Night event on May 13th, said: “Men here are coming into consciousness and are able to discuss these things. Creating a place where this is normal and support is normal.”

We should all wish that our schools have a Plan B for us, because we’re learning, and sometimes we mess up. Oh wait, my school already does. 


  1. Howdy Laurel,

    So I was reading your piece, right? And I was taken aback by how informal it was, and I was all like "uhhh Laurel who is even gonna publish this?" Then I was all like "ohhh duh woody duh! you don't know anything about Jezelbel!"

    I assume they won't have a problem with the choices you've made in this piece and will forgo the comments that I realize are now irrelevant.

    Good Job Laurel. This is a commendable piece in that it highlights not only a group I don't know much about but a campus issue I was completely ignorant about. Good well rounded reporting.

    There were some obvious typos (I always have a shit ton of them). That you will catch with your next read through. Other than that I would just like to encourage you to get out and do more interviews. Find someone who has had an emergency and tell their story anonymously. Talk to the people who headed this initiative and find out how we can get it for so cheap?

    I guess I would just like more quotes, if that makes sense?

    I will elaborate tomorrow.

    Your pal,


  2. Hi Laurel,

    I think this an interesting topic that you are covering and it was very brave of you to try out a new style. That being said, I felt like the tone might have been a little too casual, I am not super familiar with Jezebel, so maybe I am totally off base on this. I think there is a fine line between being informal and not being credible. By removing the little phrases, like "Duh" or "Oh wait" I think you can keep the style but you will seem a little more believable.

    I think you could narrow your focus a bit to make the piece flow a little better. There is a definite theme or point within your draft, you just need to pull it out. Either focus on how/why/why it's positive that the pill is so cheap, K's policy versus other college's, or the reception of the new accessibility from people on campus. Even though we are on a small liberal arts campus, people might have very different reactions to this policy. It would be interesting to find out how many packs have been sold so far, but I'm not sure if this is something you could have access to. I agree with Woody on asking someone who has had to take Plan B, and how this might have made their experience more comfortable.

    Good work and I look forward to discussing more tomorrow.

  3. Hey Laurel,

    I think that you have written this piece to fit your target publication very well. I personally really like the informality, because it speaks to a website that is largely informal in its articles. I think people would be very interested to know that this big campaign is going on at a little college in West Michigan.

    There were some typos, all things that are easily fixable. Additionally, I think that it would be good to include some commentary from more female students. You may want to go into the logistics about how all this came about, as well.

    Great work and I am looking to discuss more in class!

  4. Hey Laurel,

    This must have been really fun to report. I like the different perspectives you are getting, and the little details about the FDA and Shippenburg University really add a lot. The layout is really nice, and the ways you choose to look at the subject matter (like that last part reiterating that K is in the midwest) make the piece really dynamic and interesting. And, I think there is real conflict here which is always good for a piece.

    I do think that the rest of your reporting will amp up everything you have already, and fit in nicely. I also think you are taking some risks with the voice you chose, but it is paying off. There were a couple of times that I thought were bit over exaggerated like the little words Cassie pointed out. I really like the "I" as it functions in the piece, but it definitely reads like more of a blog post (which I guess jezebel is a blog) which doesn't bother me, I really like it. But might be getting away from narrative journalism? Though I like to think this genre is flexible.
    See you later!

  5. Laurel,

    This is a good piece for Jezebel, I think. It's definitely an interesting story--a small college in a somewhat-conservative area acting as a safe haven for feminism is a great angle for that blog. Killer concept, you've got good raw material here.

    As others have mentioned, there were some usage/grammar issues that were distracting, but they'll be no problem for you to fix in the next draft.

    I agree with what you said in your process writing--you definitely need more scene. Jezebel tends to have a chatty, op-ed type of feel but including more of a narrative will make the piece move better. For instance, you allude to helping someone get Plan B--make that a scene. In fact, that would make a great lede.

    I also think you need to set up your theme a little bit more. If I am correct in my reading, this piece is about how Kalamazoo College offers a model for supporting a female-friendly college experience (K has your back"). You need to frame the piece in that manner. By jumping in with the Plan B thing, I got the impression that the piece was about Plan B, and I was confused when S3A came into play.

    You could frame it like this: start in scene with you getting the Plan B with a friend, then say something like "this is possible because K College is supportive of it female students" or something.

    I think the voice is pretty good for Jezebel. It does come off a little forced in a couple spots with the "duhs" and whatnot. Let it be conversational in a natural way, and that issue should iron itself out.

    All in all, good start!


  6. Okay, I'm a hater, but I don't know if I believe this is a piece for Jezebel? I almost feel like I need somebody to defend it to me in that respect? Why does this matter to a Jezebel reader? Does it have an affect on them? Could it begin with a larger scope of what other schools are doing to somehow ground it a little better? I think more comparison might resolve this.

    Any issue I have with the voice of the piece stems from its seeming like a crutch in places. ("Wait, can we come back to that this campus is in the Mid-West?") Without that voice to lean out, how else could you structure this piece/work on your transitions?

    The other thing I worry about in terms of the informality is the trivializing of the issue. It's clearly a big deal, but something about the tone of this makes me wonder whether people would automatically dismiss the level of import.

    Stuffs to think about.

    Peace, gurl.

  7. I echo everything Trevor said. Except I don't necessarily have such clear, specific thoughts on which scene to start with and how to transition out of it.

    I think you have good stuff and a good start here. But in all honesty I had a very very hard time following your writing. Some of it may be attributable to the sloppy grammar everyone has mentioned, but I think there may be bigger problems. The best example I can think of is confusion over the roles and/or identities of Morgan and Rachel. It's not clear how they relate to the piece, and for Jezebel's audience it's probably in your best interest to simplify their identities to 'interested female student' in Morgan's case and 'involved female student' in Rachel's.

    Personally, I think your voice/tone/whatever that everyone's commenting on is fine for Jezebel once you clean up the rest of the piece. (I agree with Matt on this subject.)

    I think most of the problems in this piece are easy fixes, so don't sweat. It'll be great, and it's cool material--especially the conflict between a conservative region and a progressive policy.


  8. i agree with kelsey, im sorry to say. i feel like a lot of the stuff in parentheses ((And, duh, on most college campuses, when do students have time for sex other than the weekends?)) can be deleted or rephrased to better suit your story. things like "Wait, can we come back to that this campus is in the Mid-West?" take us away from the story and make it seem like we're standing in the back yard of a house party chatting over smokes.

    i dont disagree with the fact that this article can be informal, since it is written for a blog that is largely informal, but the breaks and asides above are a different kind of informal. it seems chatty and, well, too informal. the line " (which every reader should know about)", which prefaces the place of a description of Take Back the Night, would make someone who is unaware of the purpose of that event take a step back and probably feel, i believe at least, alienated from the rest of the piece.

    again, like some of the other piece, and mine in particular, i will ask: "what is the main purpose of this article?" do you want to cover the fact that students can sell plan b on campus? if so, dive into that. it seems like we get national context for this with (well done) information on the national state of affairs for the drug, but the k information doesnt leave me with an idea of why this is important.

    also, this: "Yet, for some strange and unknown reason, the students and some members of the administration for this kind of cutting edge discussion to occur on campus."

    anyways, for the positives. im positive that you have everything you need to make this into a spectacular article. i would simply rework it and add more quotes to bring out, and highlight, the importance of this decision. you can still do informal without being chatty, and with attention to detail that could make this piece really really great. keep working!

    and i promise, im not trying to be overly critical or harsh. im sorry if this comment sounds mean. ive come to expect really great writing from you, even if i dont say it a lot in every comment!