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Students Report Empty Menstrual Product Dispensers

Nicky Andrews | The PhoenixFollowing Loyola’s initiative to stock bathrooms with free menstrual products, some students say they continue to face difficulties finding pads or tampons around campus.

Loyola is falling short on their promise to supply bathrooms with menstrual products, some students said. After taking over the task from Students for Reproductive Justice (SRJ), students have had trouble finding menstrual products in the bathrooms.

In 2017, SRJ began placing menstrual products in both men’s and women’s restrooms around campus as part of their Menstrual Equity Project. At first, the university provided the funding and the products, with SRJ distributing them, according to Hannah Maher, a student organizer for SRJ. In spring 2019, the university agreed to take over the project fully at five restrooms at the Lake Shore Campus and two at the Water Tower campus, The Phoenix reported

Maher, a senior majoring in anthropology and biology, said SRJ began receiving messages from students in late September saying they couldn’t find products around campus. This being in addition to students finding dispensers empty. 

Maher described one instance where someone messaged them and offered to help distribute the products after she couldn’t find any around campus and had to free bleed — or menstruate without any products — in class.

Maher said they first notified Loyola about the reported shortages on Oct. 6 and was told the university was stocking them every day. 

But after receiving multiple reports of empty product dispensers, the group decided to go public with the problem. SRJ posted a photo Oct. 21 of an empty dispenser and a call to action on its Instagram.

SRJ also conducted a survey, which asked students whether they had seen products around campus in the past month. Of the 70 responses, 64 — or 94.3% — had reported not seeing products, according to Maher as of Nov. 11. 

Natalie Miller, a junior majoring in political science, said she noticed most of the dispensers were empty and later heard others were seeing the same thing at an SRJ meeting. 

“They’ve been empty every single time,” Miller said. “It’s super frustrating because I know that the school agreed to refill them, and then they just didn’t do it.” 

Some students concurred with this view. Marie Delaney, a sophomore political science major said the few times she’s seen the dispensers, they’ve been half empty. 

Another student, Maddie Litkal, a sophomore advertising and PR major, said she noticed the dispensers were “for the most part full” at the beginning of the semester, but in the last few weeks, she noticed they were empty. Litkal said, however, the last few times she’s seen the dispensers, they have been filled. 

Maher said since they posted about the issue on their Instagram some of their members have noticed the dispensers being stocked more, but she didn’t have full faith in what the university was saying.

“Suddenly after we posted on Instagram last week, we’ve noticed a couple bathrooms have been stocked; not all of them but some,”  Maher said. “It makes me wonder if they just started doing it again, but they haven’t fully been doing that.”

Loyola’s Senior Associate Vice President for Facilities Kana Henning, said in an email to The Phoenix that she was made aware of the reports. She said the bathrooms where products are available are stocked once a day by Loyola’s housekeeping vendors. 

“Members of the Loyola community may submit a work ticket to us at www.luc.edu/facilities, but regardless of whether a work ticket is submitted or not, we will continue to ensure that the dispensers are filled each day on their regular schedule,” Henning said in the email. 

When asked about the importance of this issue, some students expressed the university should work harder to provide the products to students who need them. Delaney talked about some of the adverse effects of not having access to menstrual products. 

“It affects people’s attention in class when they have to worry about bleeding,” Delaney said.

This was also something touched upon by Maher, who spoke about the detrimental impact not having menstrual products can have on students.

“Frankly, having to free bleed and being afraid of bleeding through your clothes is humiliating, and nobody should ever have to feel that way,” Maher said. “That’s why we started the project and that’s why it’s so heartbreaking and so disappointing that the university is not doing their job and carrying it out the way that they should.” 

Maher said the project was started in part to alleviate the financial costs associated with menstrual products. In a survey commissioned by Thinx and PERIOD, one in five teens said they struggled to afford or find menstrual products, and four in five said they or someone they knew missed class because they couldn’t find products.  

“It’s coming up to around like $40- $50, and that’s a week’s worth of groceries. So this really does make a difference in the lives of students,” Maher said.

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