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Sandra Wenceslao: Test-material vending machines would ease student stress

(Kaley Powers/Daily Bruin)

By Sandra Wenceslao

May 24, 2017 10:29 p.m.

You’re in class, ready to take an exam, but you realize that you forgot your blue book. The first thing you do is ask your classmates for a spare. Then, you have to run to the closest store that sells them. You sprint there, grab the required blue book, but now there’s a line – and the clock is ticking.

Students can purchase blue books and scantrons at six UCLA Store locations: Ackerman Union, Lu Valle Commons, the Health Sciences Store, the Hill Top Shop, the North Campus Shop and the Court of Sciences Student Center.

And students don’t just go for test supplies. They might drop in during small gaps in their schedules for a snack or a drink, making the lines – and the wait times – longer.

But the chaos of the quarter system only intensifies during midterms and finals, so it’s easy to forget to purchase a blue book or scantron.

As such, Associated Students UCLA should look into installing vending machines, like the ones at UC Davis, that sell testing materials to students. Dispersing these machines throughout campus could shorten lines at student stores while mitigating students’ panic should they forget a blue book or essential supplies for an upcoming exam.

UC Davis installed its first scantron-selling machine in 2008, and students could pay with either cash or credit cards. The machine cost the UC Davis Bookstore $5,000, but its administrators said the profits would quickly offset the costs. The machines can also help students save time because the student store is on the northeast side of campus – far away from most classrooms, said Cecilia Solis, a UC Davis student.

Still, Solis finds the vending machines to be untrustworthy because they are often empty or display a caution sign that reads, “Buy at your own risk,” since items might not dispense properly.

This won’t be the case here. Patrick Healey, director of the apparel/accessories division of the UCLA Store, stated that store managers have been looking into installing a vending machine for testing materials outside Ackerman Union. They hope it would facilitate sales outside of regular store hours.

If ASUCLA oversees the project, we shouldn’t expect too many problems. ASUCLA is already responsible for the on-campus vending machines for consumable goods like snacks and sodas, which are usually reliable. We can expect the same degree of reliability on the new machines.

But it shouldn’t only install these machines outside the UCLA Store. Installing test material vending machines in some of the other 59 vending machine locations across campus will make blue books and scantrons more accessible to students on the go.

The vending machines would be most useful in high-traffic areas like behind Powell Library and between the Geology Building and Franz Hall. Students should be able to find anything needed for an exam or for class, including blue books, scantrons, highlighers and pencils. Like most other vending machines on campus, students should have the choice to pay for their purchase with either cash or BruinCard.

With multiple vending machine locations across campus that offer testing materials, students wouldn’t have to worry about getting stuck in an unexpected line. They could go to the machine, get what they need and head to class. Easy.

Even students who have not gone through the stress of running out of lecture halls in search of a blue book can still benefit from these vending machines. They’d be able to buy highlighters on their way to their study sessions. The testing material vending machines can even be subtle reminders for students who might need blue books or scantrons. They just need to walk past one to realize they need a scantron for tomorrow’s midterm.

Of course, vending machines selling test materials might seem too expensive for irresponsible college students. Healey mentioned that the testing materials have low price points, making it a challenge to develop a program that would not negatively impact ASUCLA’s revenue.

However, some vending machine locations, such as the ones near Campbell Hall and the Math Sciences Building, have multiple vending machines that supply the same snacks and beverages.

ASUCLA could simply replace one of these machines’ merchandise with testing materials. The other machines would earn more revenue that could offset whatever money is lost selling relatively cheaper test materials. ASUCLA wouldn’t even have to pay extra maintenance costs, but could still keep the same value of convenience for students.

UCLA students live a fast-paced life, which only becomes more chaotic during exam season. They should be allowed to forget something once in a while. With a vending machine selling test materials, students would no longer have to deal with counting their pocket change at the register, or sit paralyzed with the fear of failing an exam before it has started.

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Sandra Wenceslao | Opinion columnist
Sandra Wenceslao is an Opinion columnist.
Sandra Wenceslao is an Opinion columnist.
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