It’s an equity issue. Period.
With the start of the spring 2020 semester, Clarion University Student Senate, Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and Center for Wellness have joined to level the playing field for students in need of menstrual hygiene products. The coin slot in restroom dispensers has been bypassed in academic buildings on both Clarion and Venango campuses, making pads and tampons available free.
"As a female and a women and gender studies minor, I have seen and experienced the inconveniences that come with not having access to female hygiene products," said Kaitlyn Krupa, Student Senate secretary, who wrote a proposal last spring to initiate the program.
"According to a 2013 study, 86 percent of females stated that they have started their period unexpectedly without having the necessary supplies to deal with the situation," Krupa said. "Being unprepared for a period can leave students unable to complete their school day, which can negatively affect their education."
Not having menstrual products – termed "period poverty" – takes a woman's attention away from the lecture or academic activity and changes her focus to, "Is it soaking through my clothes? "Will I have to walk across campus where it will be seen?"
"Emptying one's bladder and bowels are normal bodily functions, and we see fit to provide those functions by supplying restrooms with toilet paper. Washing hands afterward is considered an essential health habit, so soap and paper towels are supplied," said Dr. Kathleen Welsch, Clarion English professor who also teaches women and gender studies courses.
The menstrual cycle is a normal bodily function, too, she said, but it is treated
as different – as extra.
Welsch, who said she has not only been in that situation herself but has had students in that situation, has provided a basket of tampons and pads in one of the restrooms of Davis Hall, where she teaches, for several years.
"I started this as an equity issue based on my own experience when younger of suddenly finding myself unprepared or of meeting a desperate woman in the restroom without supplies or change," she said. "I don't think it's fair to ask women to pay for an essential item for an essential bodily function if they have an emergency situation," she said.
"Women's rights are human rights, and equitable actions make our world a better place,"
In buildings with machines that cannot be bypassed, baskets of products will be placed and stocked by Student Senate. Those buildings include the Science and Technology Center, Becht Hall and Tippin Gym.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the response that our administration and student body has had to my proposal," Krupa said. "While we are a small university, I hope the impact of our actions will influence other universities, businesses, and organizations to provide free menstrual products to those in need."
The supplies are intended to meet an immediate need. The university's Resource Room can supply products for students to keep at home.