Photo taken by Autumn Micketti
Four SOU students spoke about birth control and menstrual products in India for their Global Gender Movements class presentation in late November. During a brief tangent, the four women discussed issues they had with finding menstrual products on the university campus – concerns that were echoed by many in the audience.
Why were the dispensers always empty? Why did they cost different amounts in different buildings? Whose job was it to restock them?
This final question was of unique focus, as all four members of the group had reached out to various members of the Stevenson Union staff – from the Women’s Resource Center to the Associated Students of SOU – and were referred elsewhere.
“(The low stock of menstrual products) may seem like a small issue, but having access to tampons and pads is really important, especially in a school,” said Maggie Fields, one of the presenting students. “I know that having a period affects so many of us in all aspects of our lives. It should not affect our education.”
Intrigued by the difficulties my fellow students had in finding answers to these questions, I decided to investigate it on my own. I contacted everyone they mentioned, from the WRC to the ASSOU, along with the Facilities Management and Planning Department (FMP), which handles custodial work in all SOU academic and administrative buildings.
I eventually received word back from Steven Bronson, the custodial supervisor in FMP. His message was simple: “I will look into this and get back to you.”
Meanwhile, many of the other people I’d contacted had begun sending me elsewhere. ASSOU President Britney Sharp; Cameron Riggs, the student government’s director of gender equity and sexual diversity; and its gender equity and sexual diversity senator, Sam Hennessee, all pointed me toward custodial. While the ASSOU officers didn’t have answers to many of my questions, they did highlight the importance of the topic.
“All students on campus who need these resources should have access to them due to the consequences this can have on one’s health, as well as one’s social life,” Riggs said.
Hennessee added that “it is important to me that individuals who menstruate have access to products for free so they do not have to worry about not having them in cases of emergency or financial strife.”
Sharp also pointed me in the direction of Danielle Mancuso, SOU’s associate director of Student Life who oversees Stevenson Union operations, including custodial. That initially confused me – how could Mancuso and Bronson both oversee custodial work? But Sharp explained that the library and Stevenson Union are “two different buildings, managed by different funding pots.”
In essence, two organizations oversee custodial work on campus: Facilities, Maintenance and Planning handles the academic and administrative buildings, while the Housing Department manages the student union, dining commons and housing. I’d have to contact both to get the full story.
The first question to be answered was about the different prices of menstrual products across campus. Mancuso said she’s responsible for the 25-cent cost of products at the Stevenson Union’s machines – as opposed to 50-cent prices seen more widely around campus. “The SU is run by student fee money so I try to make costs lower for students where I can,” she said.
Differing prices at various educational buildings are due largely to when the machines were put in place. “Various prices are due to the age of the dispensers in the academic buildings,” Bronson said. He included a breakdown of all of the dispensers across campus, and what they cost.