University approves free feminine hygiene products for students

Gender-neutral and women’s bathrooms on campus have baskets of menstrual products for student use—but now, they’ll be stocked by Augustana janitorial staffers rather than HAPPY. members.

The Dean of Students office recently approved the funding of free feminine hygiene products after ASA senators passed a resolution supporting the administration takeover of the role previously filled by HAPPY., an organization focused on period advocacy and education.

According to ASA president Anna Stritecky, this means sustainable funding and a new university precedent in providing for the well-being of students.

Originating this fall, ASA denied HAPPY. co-founder Manaal Ali full funding to restock HAPPY.’s low supply levels of pads and tampons located in select campus bathrooms because the Senate began the academic year with a $1,873 deficit from the 2017-2018 administration.

Ali continued the search for longer-term funding by asking ASA to amend the constitutional by-laws to include pads and tampons, but senators settled on the standing resolution, and Dean of Students Mark Blackburn approved university funding.

“I think it’s a really big step in showing support for a cause that is vital to humanity and the necessary functions of a good majority of [Augustana’s] population,” Ali said. “I’m just happy because it’s something that was needed, and is now going to help a lot of people.”

Blackburn said the transition will include janitorial staff members ordering, filling and ensuring the menstrual products are available in women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms.

“We want to make sure that we’re taking care of our students in every capacity, even if it’s as something as small as this,” Blackburn said. “There are students that don’t have the resources to [access menstrual products] on a regular basis. For us, it’s a part taking  care of their health and safety.”

Blackburn said that before HAPPY. began providing menstrual products, Augustana had stocked quarter dispensers with pads and tampons. However, the machines were continually vandalized, prompting janitorial staff to stop filling the machines. He said the baskets and free product solve this problem and fit into the university’s “well-being model.”

As an organization, Ali said this funding allows HAPPY. to use its ASA-allocated funds for education and advocacy, to donate to local sanitation drives and to begin working in local high schools toward ending menstrual inequality.

“When HAPPY. started as a group, it was very much about buying product and getting it into the system so Augustana could take it over,” Ali said. “We forgot to focus on recruiting members to stay on over the years. We couldn’t focus on advocacy, and that’s what we’d like to change.”

HAPPY. and the Dean of Students office will work together through the transition, but no definitive date has been set for the full transition.

“This is something I think the college should provide,” Blackburn said. “It’s not like the university didn’t want to provide [these products], it was just out of sight and out of mind. Once we brought attention to it, facilities were more than willing.”

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