Following the Binghamton University Faculty Senate’s unanimous vote to pass a resolution to distribute free menstrual care products to students, the University, in partnership with the Student Association (SA), has launched the first phase of the pilot program.
The initiative garnered BU Faculty Senate support in October to promote student economic equity, inclusion and access to products that help ensure student health. The original resolution had been passed in October 2017 by the State University of New York (SUNY) University Faculty Senate as a proposal by the SUNY Diversity and Inclusion Committee, according to a joint statement by Johann Fiore-Conte, assistant vice president for health and wellness, JoAnn Navarro, vice president for operations at BU and Katie Ellis, senior director of BU communications and marketing.
According to the statement, the purpose of the program is to aid students in economic need.
“We recognize that students often need to make difficult financial choices,” the statement read. “Some students may need to decide whether to buy a menstrual care product or purchase food. Other students who can’t afford products might miss class. We didn’t want students’ success at school impeded by whether or not they could afford to buy a menstrual care product.”
The first phase, which began after spring break, allows students to fill out an online form to request the pads, tampons or liners in packages of 12 to be delivered to their on-campus mailboxes or for pickup at the Real Education About College Health (REACH) office located in the basement of Decker Student Health Services. According to the online form, the items will be delivered within three to five business days.
If students need menstrual care products immediately, they can visit one of the three kiosks on campus: the REACH Peer Program Education office, the Health Promotion and Prevention Services office on the third floor of Old O’Connor Hall in Old Dickinson Community or the Bear Necessities Food Pantry in Room 168 of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
The second phase of the project will commence in fall 2019, and product dispensers will be installed throughout gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and in the Innovative Technologies Complex, the University Downtown Center and the Johnson City campus.
The Menstrual Care Products Committee was initiated by Harry Bittker, BU Council representative and a senior majoring in political science. Bittker wrote in an email that the program was designed to relieve the financial burden of menstrual products on students and provide the products in convenient ways.
“The committee agreed that the initiative should be designed around promoting economic equity for students, and while anyone who uses those bathrooms has access to the products in those dispensers, the focus of the program is on serving the needs of students,” Bittker wrote. “It is possible that, as we evaluate the program going forward, and as we get feedback from students, we’ll expand to other buildings or expand to additional bathrooms in the same buildings, but, for now, we think this is a good starting point.”
According to Bittker, the committee will begin meeting again in mid-April to identify ways to improve the program after receiving feedback from students and Physical Facilities.
Rachel Anszelowicz, student representative to the Menstrual Care Products Committee and a junior triple-majoring in philosophy, classical and Near Eastern studies and philosophy, politics and law, wrote in an email that the second phase will not begin simultaneously with the pilot’s rollout because of installation delays.
“Phase two of the program will involve installing free menstrual care product dispensers in bathrooms across campus, but unfortunately the logistics of ordering and installing these dispensers takes time,” Anszelowicz wrote. “As a committee, we therefore decided that we should implement the parts of the program that were logistically easier to get underway as soon as we were able to, so that students could be best serviced.”
Yelena Keller-Wyman, a sophomore double-majoring in economics and philosophy, politics and law, said she appreciates the mission of the program and would use the products to be provided in bathrooms on campus.
“I like this program and would definitely take advantage of having menstrual products in the bathrooms,” Keller-Wyman said. “I have been late to class because I had to find a tampon from someone so having them there would make it easier, and I like the idea of having them both in bathrooms for immediate convenience and for people that can’t afford them. It’s important to recognize that nonbinary people or trans men can also get periods, so I like the idea of having them in the gender-neutral bathroom.”