Last April, UW-Madison’s student government and administrators partnered to conduct a pilot program that would evaluate the cost and feasibility of permanently providing free menstrual products in campus restrooms.
Now, the idea is spreading across the UW System.
UW-La Crosse Student Body President Jacob Schimmel spearheaded an effort to bring free menstrual products to their campus as well. After multiple meetings with school faculty, Schimmel plans to have the first menstrual product dispensers in both academic and non-academic buildings throughout campus operating within the next two weeks.
“Our administration was able to be pushed to do this because they are open-minded, and they went out of the way to understand what was going on for women,” Schimmel said. “Once the machines get here, probably in the next week or two, we will be putting those into the academic building bathrooms, as many as we can.”
According to Schimmel, the push for free menstrual products on campus is gathering support at other UW System schools. He said groups from UW-Eau Claire and UW-Milwaukee have expressed interest in the program.
“I think it has a good chance of spreading because our administration was willing to take on that fiscal cost alone, and I think that will help nudge other campuses toward doing something similar,” Schimmel said.
UW-Madison’s Associated Students of Madison, the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration and Facilities Planning & Management are moving forward with their pilot program.
According to Steven Wagner, the communications director for Facilities Planning & Management, ASM and UW-Madison staff are working together to determine the effect and benefits of the program.
“We are dividing up the duties,” Wagner said. “[Facilities Planning & Management] install the dispensers, stock them and keep track of what is being used. ASM publicizes the program, and is supposed to be collecting feedback from the students about the program.”
The dispensers — found in the women’s restrooms in Helen C. White and Sterling Hall, as well as all the restrooms in the Red Gym — cost the university $3,070, according to Wagner. Since the program began, 767 tampons and 493 menstrual pads have been dispensed in Helen C. White.
The student and campus leadership will meet to determine the fate of the program once it expires at the end of the semester. ASM Chair Katrina Morrison — who has contacted other Big Ten schools with similar programs on how best to implement the program — said she is confident UW-Madison will adopt it.
“Based on what we have been hearing, the program has been going very well,” Morrison said. “I have every confidence that it will expand to every campus building in some capacity.”
UPDATE Sept. 29 at 1:06pm: This story was updated to clarify that Facilities Planning and Managment is not apart of faculty at UW-Madison.