Free menstrual product now available in academic buildings

Imagine this: you’re in the Cyber, studying for that big exam you have in an hour. After about 20 minutes, you get up and go to get a coffee and use the restroom. That’s when you have the horrible feeling, wondering if your period just started and you don’t have any provisions to take care of it.

Luckily, you are in the Union, so you find a dispenser of menstrual products including pads and tampons. That was part of a program initiated by Student Senate.

“The pilot program consisted of ten dispensers being installed in four buildings (Bonds, Rec Center, Library, and the Union) to see how big of a need this was on campus,” said Ally Crays, former Student Senate president.

The dispensers were installed in August before the fall semester began by Buildings and Grounds. Aramark refilled the dispensers as needed throughout the semester. At each of the ten dispensers in these four buildings, there was a link to a survey for users to give feedback and for the program to be evaluated.

The survey results and the refill data from Aramark said this program was working.

“It was deemed successful and something students want to see more of so we decided to move forward with obtaining funding for additional buildings,” said Crays.

Some survey results even included personal anecdotes, which Crays said the Student Senate took into account.

The second bill to include these dispensers in all academic buildings passed on Nov. 19. There are 12 new dispensers coming to campus. In addition, three of the dispensers currently on campus will be relocated to other buildings, ensuring that there is at least one dispenser in all 15 academic buildings.

“The dispensers are a one-time cost that has been fully funded by our initiative through student senate funding. The products are being absorbed into the budget of Student Affairs to ensure the sustainability and longevity of this project,” said Crays.

She also noted that the campus is majority female and that not women menstruate and not all people who menstruate are women.

She believes this will open up the dialogue about menstruation, teaching the BW community about it and increase equality across campus.

President Bob Helmer and Dr. Trina Dobberstein were heavily involved in this project. Administration had an overall positive reaction to this program, seeing how it can benefit students and the community.

“Menstrual products can be expensive for students, especially those with low income, when money is already tight,” said Crays. “It increases access to education when students who menstruate might have to leave class or skip all together because they do not have any menstrual products.”

In addition, it reduces the shame and stigma around the menstrual cycle and can give students the confidence to focus on schoolwork.

With the success of the pilot program and the installation of the new dispensers, there will be more equality in BW’s community, which strives to include all regardless of differences.