During a lecture, political science senior Cecilia Silva said she started her period unexpectedly, but nobody around her had proper hygiene products.
She went to the bathroom but found no dispenser. She finally found a dispenser after searching around campus.
It turned out to be broken.
“It was in that moment where I realized that there was a need on campus,” Silva said.
Silva authored Resolution 18-04, “I am Woman, Give me Options,” in February 2018, which the Student Senate passed in April 2019. The resolution calls for all on-campus stores to sell women’s hygiene products and the university to maintain and regularly refill all the dispensers in the women’s restrooms.
The resolution also asks the university to provide students with extra supplies from the Health Center, Silva said.
“I wasn’t asking for much,” she said. “I was asking the bare minimum.”
When Silva wrote the resolution, female students made up 60% of the university’s population, and female enrollment increased by 3% from fall 2017 to 2018, according to previous Shorthorn reporting. Among all the students, 37% have low income and depend on federal and state aid, according to the resolution.
Coming from a low-income background, Silva said it was difficult to get menstrual hygiene products regularly in a house with multiple girls and a single mom.
UTA currently has nine dispensers across campus as part of a pilot program after the resolution passed in 2019, said Lisa Nagy, vice president for Student Affairs.
Nagy said the pilot program accounts for the cost of dispensers and usage patterns. The program also allows students to express what they expect from the university regarding the dispensers.
Against a national backdrop, the United States has seen public reform to provide free menstrual hygiene products in schools in states like California and New York.
The Menstrual Equity for All Act, introduced by California assembly member Cristina Garcia, requires public schools with students in grades six to 12, community colleges and the California State University System to provide free hygiene products in restrooms starting in the 2022-2023 academic year.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the legislation into law Oct. 8.
In June 2016, the New York City Council voted for a series of measures to provide free hygiene products in public schools, prisons and homeless shelters.
More than 14% of college women experienced period poverty in the past year, and 10% experienced it every month, according to research by George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services.
Kristel Valero, information systems junior and Progressive Student Union member, said she lends products to a friend who was recently kicked out of their home to eliminate some of that cost.
Valero said while she doesn’t struggle in providing herself these products, they are still expensive.
“As someone who relies on financial aid and someone who is paying out of pocket for the semester, providing these period pads or tampons would help tremendously,” Valero said.
Out of curiosity, Valero searched the bathrooms in the Central Library, the University Center and the Business Building to see how the university provides menstrual products, she said.
“When I actually walked around and I went through every floor, I realized there was only one dispensary for every building,” Valero said.
Dispensers can be found in the University Center, Nedderman Hall, Maverick Activities Center, Fine Arts Building, Central Library, Pickard Hall, Business Building, The Commons and the Chemistry and Physics Building. The university installs one dispenser per building.
Mark Napieralski, history and art senior and Progressive Student Union president, has tabled this resolution since September. Students feel frustrated that this resolution exists yet doesn’t receive the administration’s support, he said.
“Nine dispensers, none of which are in the dorms,” Napieralski said. “People are very concerned about that, especially those who deal with menstruation.”
Napieralski said he attended Pizza with the President with former UTA President Vistasp Karbhari in September 2019 to ask about the status of Resolution 18-04, to which Karbhari said the university was researching it.
The Progressive Student Union is demanding the administration not gatekeep information and be transparent about how they’re proceeding with this resolution, Napieralski said.
“The administration fumbled the ball,” Napieralski said. “They should take accountability, which means ownership and saying ‘You know what, we didn’t do enough.’”
Nagy said COVID-19 changed the direction of the institution. Last year, the university mainly focused on providing security and safety for students because of the pandemic, she said.
“It was never an attempt not to do and implement 18-04,” she said. “It just kind of slowed us down a little bit to focus and pivot on some of these other things.”
Nagy said the university is taking time this academic year to review how many people use the dispensers and what products they prefer.
“I got really disrupted, unfortunately, due to the pandemic, but as soon as we got students back, we tried to get back on track and launched the pilot,” she said.
Nagy said in an email that once they receive more dispensers from vendors, the number will increase from nine to 32.
“I don’t think [Resolution 18-04 is] going to go away after the pilot program,” she said. “I think we will continue it, we’ll continue to evolve it based upon student needs and student feedback.”
Through UTA advocacy programs, Nagy said she knows about students who struggle for basic needs, and for women, these products are a part of that.
“It’s not always things that are predictable for women,” she said. “So, I think us being able to provide some access to these types of resources for our students is important.”