Zip. Zip. Clank. Swivel, swivel. Silence. You may have needed a feminine hygiene product while on campus and found yourself in a UCC restroom having to unzip your wallet for change, clank a quarter into the machine, swivel the knob to the right only to be followed by silence and a feeling of despair. This is a common problem. Only three out of 13 women’s restrooms on UCC’s campus are stocked with both tampons and pads.
Mainstream staff members walked restroom to restroom conducting a study to see which women’s restrooms carry feminine hygiene products. They found that four buildings have broken feminine hygiene dispensers. Three other buildings have no dispensers whatsoever such as the new Health, Nursing, & Science Center and the women’s gym locker room. Three other restrooms have partially working dispensers. And only three restrooms have fully operational dispensers. One of those restrooms located in the Jacoby Auditorium, however, is usually locked and inaccessible to UCC students.
UCC’s restrooms are not the only ones lacking menstrual products. According to Nausheen Wakhlu from the University of Southern California’s Daily Trojan newspaper, “Access to feminine care products is very limited on USC’s campus.” On Feb. 2, the Ohio Kenyon Collegian discussed the same issue they are facing on campus: “The college is attempting to correct the lack of menstrual supplies across campus by refilling tampon and pad dispensers.”
The issue goes beyond dispensers. Rachel Falek from American University wrote last month that “students at colleges across the country are demanding free menstrual products.” And some students such as Julie Chen from Emory University have helped implement feminine hygiene assistance pilot programs.
Brittany McHaffie, a nursing student at UCC, describes her experiences inside the women’s restroom: “I’ve noticed there is a severe lack (on campus). A lot of friends are like, ‘we don’t have any machines’ and I’m like ‘here I’ve got one [feminine hygiene product].’” McHaffie says, “I would love to see a basic basket like they did at Portland State University. Just sanitary items, tampons and maxi pads. It doesn’t have to be anything really fancy, but it’s a necessity for us, at least, to be able to attend class too.”
Not many students have the luxury to gamble with the dispensers on campus, so the lack of reliably accessible feminine products implements a sense of unfairness and may even create an impression that schools discriminate against female students biological needs.
UCC’s lack of reliably accessible feminine hygiene products is not new.
In her 15 years at UCC, Student Life Program Assistant Diana Kelly says, “I haven’t seen the restrooms restocked in years.”
In the college’s functional restroom dispensers, specifically Jackson Hall, Mainstream staff found that all products were outdated. The maxi pads contained small, brown spots while tampons contained small contaminants with a mustard-like color.
While the gamble with dispensers may not lead anywhere pleasant, UCC’s student bookstore did recently add limited feminine hygiene products to their inventory for a periodical emergency.
The store offers Tampax Pearl and Tampax Radiant for students who may need to purchase such products. Tampax Pearl consists of 8 tampons and costs $3.96 while Tampax Radiant consists of 3 tampons and costs $1.50. Both are in size “super.”
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” may come to mind for some bookstore tampon shoppers, however; not all females are able to comfortably use the size “super.” Because each female has a unique menstrual cycle (some are regular, some are irregular), each female body requires different sizes of a product. And some females aren’t able to use tampons at all.
According to Dr. Sherry Ross, a women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, “About 50 percent of the cases of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) occur in menstruating women who use super-absorbent tampons.”
For a female student who is petite or has a “light” flow, the super size is currently the only campus option available to them. No pads or pantyliners are available in the student bookstore.
You may be wondering what other options are available to female students on campus. The answer is simple; not many.
Aside from unreliable dispensers and “super” tampons, resources for females caught in an unexpected emergency are severely limited. Students may find themselves driving to the nearest grocery store or home if they live close enough and can afford the wasted money, time and energy which are all extremely precious and limited to college students.
McHaffie, who has attended two other Oregon colleges, is dissatisfied at UCC’s lack of hygiene products especially in restrooms, “Disappointed to be honest. Really, really disappointed, even more disappointed as a nurse because these are necessities. This isn’t a snack. This isn’t a luxury item. Snacks are nice, but it’s more important to have this because this is a medical need and eventually could turn into a biohazard if someone is bleeding all over the place because they can’t take care of it.”
Kristapher L. Yates, ASUCC Vice-President, and several other students are assembling hygiene product kits for students who are unable to purchase necessary items themselves. This group is working towards satisfying a requirement for their Speech 219 class.
“Our group feels passionate about initiating what could be a long-term service offered to our students. In our opinion, this is just another way in which UCC can be providing an opportunity for ‘Student Success,’” Yates said.
The group is accepting donations for basic hygiene products from toothpaste to soap in Riverhawk Central (Student Government) in the Student Center and the UCC Community & Workforce Training Center on Diamond Lake Boulevard in Roseburg. “It’s been clear (as of yet) that the biggest need we will have is for feminine hygiene products as there have not been any donations consisting of those items. This reiterates the lack of availability of feminine hygiene products for our students,” Yates said.
Because tampons and pads are not being stocked in women’s restrooms, ASUCC is also examining what they can do to contribute to providing such products.
“We have recently learned about the unmet need for feminine hygiene products. We are already executing discussions with our team to see how ASUCC can help with this unmet need,” ASUCC said.
Hopefully this will increase female students’ equanimity.
Alicia Graves, Managing Editor, also contributed to the article.