Menstrual hygiene dispenser products become free on campus


Brigida Dockus

Illinois Student Government members (left to right) Jimmy Song, Conner Josellis and Mariama Mwilambwe sit together for an interview.

By Julie Kang, Assistant News Editor

Last year, only 4% of the feminine hygiene product dispensers in women’s bathrooms around campus were used, according to Jimmy Song, treasurer of the Illinois Student Government and sophomore in Business. To combat this, ISG started the Menstrual Hygiene Pilot Program to replace dispensers in the bathrooms of buildings around the Main Quad, making them free of charge.

This week, the program has been officially implemented, and products are free in the following buildings: English Building, Undergraduate Library, Davenport Hall, Lincoln Hall and Gregory Hall.

“Hopefully as we move along in this process, we can start expanding that,” said Student Body President Connor Josellis, junior in Media.

Josellis said regardless of how small it is, the 50-cent cost to buy products from the dispensers is a barrier, especially when a student is in an emergency situation.

“I don’t know if anyone here is carrying two quarters on them. Probably not,” Josellis said. “This is something that should be provided to all the students, and that’s what we’re working to do.”

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    ISG is partnering with the University’s Facilities & Services to split the cost. Because the program is student-run and student-initiated, ISG has agreed to pay for most of the funds. F&S will cover the rest of the expenses and do the actual labor of retrofitting and replacing the dispensers.

    To measure the success of this pilot program, ISG will be obtaining usage reports from F&S to see how often the free dispensers were used within a certain period of time. Josellis said he thinks the project will be completed by the end of the semester, if not earlier.

    “I could imagine that … this program will be a success,” Josellis said. “There’s really not necessarily negative outcomes that can result (from) this.”

    Mariama Mwilambwe, ISG press secretary and freshman in LAS, said this project is significant because topics and issues surrounding menstrual hygiene are often dealt with on a personal or one-to-one basis rather than being addressed as a larger problem.

    “It shows that the student body is taking initiative, just on behalf of accessibility in students,” Mwilambwe said.

    Josellis agreed and said students are taking charge of the program and working with the University to get things done.

    “At the end of the day, the administration are the people who are going to be implementing and really acting and can make those big protocol changes,” Josellis said. “But we need to have a big student voice ready to (start it), and that’s what we’ve done with this program.”

    This pilot program was created by the previous ISG administration, which did not consist of Song and Josellis. Because of this transition, Josellis said he had to step in and catch up with programs that were established prior to his time as president.

    Susan Zhou, senior in LAS, ISG senator and the speaker pro tempore, created the Menstrual Hygiene Pilot Program with former President Walter Lindwall.

    “Universities across the association of Big Ten schools have been making the push to provide free menstrual hygiene products, and we didn’t want to see (the University) fall behind,” Zhou said.

    In addition to hoping the pilot program will be successful and expand to more buildings across campus in the future, Zhou said she wants it to help not only women, but everyone.

    “I hope (the program can) provide menstrual hygiene products in all restrooms regardless of gender, as not all who menstruate are women,” Zhou said. “I hope that no one ever has to feel that sinking sensation when you realize you don’t have a quarter or any pads or tampons on your person when you need them most.”

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