Seton Hall’s chapter of PERIOD, in collaboration with the Student Government Association, is seeking to install free menstrual product dispensers in public bathrooms on campus, the organizations announced jointly on social media last week.
PERIOD is a national organization that works to “end the stigma around menstruation and fight to end period product poverty,” according to Sophia Dinman, a junior political science major and Policy Coordinator for PERIOD.
“My second day on campus during freshman orientation, I started my period unexpectedly,” said Shimoli Parikh, a junior biology major and President Seton Hall’s chapter of PERIOD. “I was just out at orientation, so I didn’t bring my backpack with me. I went to the bathroom in the UC, and there was no dispenser in there. I had to walk all the way back to my dorm in Aquinas. That’s what inspired me to start this club.”
Based on results from a survey the club issued, Parikh’s story is not unusual. From 169 menstruating respondents, 166 said that they had unexpectedly started a period without any products, and 149 left an event to find products. 92 people said they had trouble in the past with purchasing menstrual products.
So far, nearly 200 people said they are in support of the initiative.
“We’ve been collecting data to prove that this is an issue for students,” Parikh said.
It is not clear when students can expect to see these dispensers in the bathrooms. The club is currently collecting survey data to present to the Office of Student Affairs and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Parikh hopes to see the dispensers operational by the next semester.
After collecting data, the club plans to negotiate with the University administration to install the menstrual product dispensers on campus.
“The school should offer these products to its students,” Parikh said. “It’s something that would alleviate student worries and improve the campus experience.”
PERIOD plans to start with three dispensers in the women’s restrooms of the University Center, the Walsh Gym, and the second floor of the library, with the goal of expanding into all women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms across the campus in coming years. Dinman said the first locations were chosen because of their heavy foot traffic.
The locations of the dispensers may change with renovations to the University Center still underway, and Parikh spoke of possibly increasing the number of flagship installations.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” she said. “We’re hoping we can push for more dispensers to start.”
Aunt Flow brand dispensers were chosen for their environmental and financial sustainability, Parikh said. All the products will be 100% cotton, without dyes or chemicals, and biodegradable.
Dinman said environmental concerns are a priority for PERIOD.
“The national organization of PERIOD takes an environmentally friendly stance, and we wanted to do the same,” she said.
These dispensers were designed for schools, so the company offered a discount to PERIOD for their use, Parikh said. Each dispenser costs $200, totaling $600 for the three initial dispensers. Refilling all machines with products over the course of a school year is estimated to be about $1,100.
Parikh said that the funds would not see an increase in tuition costs for students.
“Ideally, we would like the money for refilling the dispensers to come from the same funds as the toilet paper,” Parikh said. “These products are a basic necessity.”
It is still unclear who will be paying for the installation of the machines themselves, but PERIOD is hopeful that if the initiative is approved, the University will cover both the installation and restocking fees. SGA President Julia Nicolls said that a long-term budget solution will be determined “after the first phase of implementation.”
PERIOD’s role on this project is to raise the issue to the administration, but Parikh said there was a need for outreach.
“We want to show that the issue exists not just for menstruators. This is something that affects all students, and a lot of organizations so far have been supportive.”
Nicolls said that the SGA was “very supportive” of the initiative when it was first introduced, and they have been working with the University administration and aiding PERIOD in communicating with the proper parties.
An alliance with the SGA was a positive sign for PERIOD, as Dinman said it showed the student body was behind them.
“SGA recognizes the need to support women and provide equal opportunities for success,” Dinman said.
Kathryn McCoy can be reached at email@example.com.