The Women’s Resource Agency is making a proposal for free menstrual product dispensers in on-campus bathrooms to the Dean of Students this week.
Multiple organizations have worked on menstrual product initiatives in the past, such as Orange Jackets and UT Students for Planned Parenthood. Originally started by Orange Jackets, the project was moved to the WRA, a branch of student government that focuses on women’s issues. Mehraz Rahman, student body vice president, got involved with the project when she noticed there were no free menstrual product resources.
“I was thinking out loud that, ‘Hey we should have pads and tampons available and free for everyone who needs them,’” said Rahman, a marketing and Plan II senior.
Rahman first worked with the University Unions to get menstrual products sold at Provisions on Demand, convenience stands around campus. However, having menstrual products only available for purchase limited accessibility, said Catherine Holley, co-director of the WRA.
“In most bathrooms there are dispensers you can put coins into and it will give you a tampon or pad,” said Holley, a European studies and Plan II sophomore. “But to be completely honest, I don’t see them super often.”
The WRA will be presenting a proposal that focuses on offering free menstrual products in easily accessible locations, WRA co-director Ximena Alvarez said.
“We were tasked to present a proposal to the Dean of Students and the CFO of UT-Austin to potentially either get dispensers or some sort of box or area that we could provide free menstrual products to students,” said Alvarez, a theater and dance senior.
The biggest obstacle to implementing this proposal is cost, Rahman said. Menstrual products were previously provided in University bathrooms, but were cut due to costs and vandalism,
according to a statement from University communications strategist Shilpa Bakre.
“Custodial Services was responsible for providing the products in the past,” Bakre said. “But they do not currently have the resources to support an additional program requirement.”
While the project would be expensive, the benefits for students would be worth the initial cost, Alvarez said.
“It is an investment, but it helps with destigmatizing having a period and being a woman and … empowering women to freely talk about something that is common,” Alvarez said.
UT Students for Planned Parenthood started a petition for free menstrual products on campus, funded by a new grant, said campus campaign manager Ashley Deñó.
“It’s an issue that we know a lot of people go through,” said Deñó, an African and African Diaspora studies and youth and community studies senior. “People have had an issue accessing menstrual products when they needed them.”