Seton Hall’s first free menstrual product dispenser was installed in the University Center this spring as a result of a collaborated effort from the Student Government Association (SGA) and PERIOD SHU.
Student Government Association (SGA) and PERIOD SHU joined forces in fall 2021 to provide free menstrual products to the student body, according to the organizations’ Instagram accounts. The organizations collected data and held discussions with the University administration the months leading up to the dispenser installation. Additionally, baskets of free products were placed in the other bathrooms around campus and at the front desks of residence halls.
PERIOD SHU is a club focused on ending the stigma around menstruation and reducing period product poverty, the lack of accessible menstrual hygiene tools. They proposed this initiative to SGA last semester to serve the student body and to have an ally in working with the University administration. The initiative is funded through the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
The dispensers the club plans to install are products of the brand Aunt Flow, which offers eco-friendly menstrual pads and tampons at a discount to schools and universities. The products in the baskets are also the same brand.
Sophia Dinman, a junior political science major and PERIOD SHU’s Policy Coordinator, said the initial plan was to have 3 dispensers, but the administration wanted a trial period. To ensure there was no abuse of the products, PERIOD SHU has been using QR codes that notify the club’s executive board when a basket needs to be refilled.
Shimoli Parikh, a junior biology major and President of PERIOD SHU, said the University needed more reassurance that the products were being used.
“Administration has to think long-term, but the students on campus aren’t thinking like that,” Parikh said. “We’ve been pushing to get this change now, but they need more time.”
Dinman said that the University could not change the maintenance staff’s contracts halfway through the year to refill the dispensers so PERIOD SHU will refill the baskets themselves. The club is working on a new contract with administration.
So far, the dispenser has not needed refilling, and the most used basket is in McNulty. Having the products available is the main goal for the club. “It allows students freedom, and they won’t be worried about getting their period in class or having to go off-campus without a car to get supplies,” Dinman said.
This initiative began sparking conversations amongst the student body.
“I’ve gotten men asking me if the products were necessary, if women on campus could do something else,” Parikh said. “This is the point of the club, to educate people about periods and their stigma.”
There have also been some suggestions for the club, like moving the basket away from the front desks of residence halls to smooth over any awkwardness.
“I’m not personally uncomfortable with it,” said Parikh, “but I understand why some would be uncomfortable. I’m not happy with it, but we wanted to be sure the products were going to be in dorms.”
Moving forward, Dinman said PERIOD SHU wants to progress to three dispensers on campus as they originally planned. The second dispenser is soon to be installed in the second-floor restroom in the library, and another is planned for the gym restroom. The club wants to see even more dispensers in the future as the initiative gains traction, with the end-goal of having a dispenser in every campus building. Parikh said her goal before her graduation in fall 2022 would be to get dispensers in Jubilee and McNulty, the buildings where the baskets have been most frequently used.
“We’re fighting for equality on campus,” Dinman said. “We’re excited that we got this far, and I’m excited to see where this initiative will go in the future.”