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UW-Madison students raise concern over the lack of free menstrual products on campus

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is facing controversy from students around the lack of menstrual products in campus restrooms. Each women’s restroom has a dispenser where students can get period products such as pads and tampons, but according to a tweet from April 21, not all of them have been restocked on campus. 

“This morning I went to five university bathrooms (four of which were in Steenbock library) looking for a menstrual product and found not a single one was in stock,” junior Meghan Savaglia tweeted in April. “@UWMadison @UHSMadison don’t bother offering free menstrual products if less trafficked areas of campus will not be stocked.” 

Recently, University Health Services (UHS) and the Division of Facility Planning & Management (FP&M) have not heard complaints about the lack of menstrual products on campus, according to UHS Chief of Staff Marlena Holden. 

“Access to menstrual products is considered a basic service at many higher education institutions, including UW-Madison,” Holden said. 

Although students have not alerted UHS and FP&M of any issues regarding period products in campus restrooms, some still expressed concerns.  

“I think it’s definitely something that should be taken into account by administrators. I’m a part of [the] Associated Students of Madison (ASM), and there’s been a lot of push from student organizations to offer those products,” Savaglia, the Press Office Director of the student governance body, stated. “Things like Sex Out Loud, things like Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, where they push to have those materials distributed for free.” 

Savaglia remains frustrated as UW-Madison has been restocking toilet paper and cleaning campus restrooms on a daily basis. 

“ I don’t see why those dispensers have to be any different than those essentials for bathrooms across campus,” Savaglia said.

UW-Madison’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) also advocated for increased menstrual product accessibility. Yearly, the club sets up a menstrual product drive and donates these necessities to different organizations within the community. 

“I think our campus and most campuses across the states are really long overdo in having period and menstrual products accessible in every single bathroom,” said PPGA member and senior Maya Cherins. “And I think this also touches on another issue of having gendered bathrooms where, on campus, if you do happen to find products, they’re really only in women’s restrooms, which is incredibly heteronormative.” 

Ultimately, the push for access to menstrual products at UW-Madison is not new. Students voiced concerns about accessible menstrual products on campus for years. In 2017, ASM and administrators created a plan to provide free menstrual products in campus bathrooms. 

“[It] began as a pilot project that was a collaboration between FP&M and ASM in a subset of campus buildings,” Holden said. “The program was expanded to a wider range of campus buildings, focusing on facilities used by students.”

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The pilot program took into account the cost of making all products free, and the idea quickly spread across campus and through the University of Wisconsin System. 

FP&M was tasked with stocking and keeping track of menstrual dispensers, while the student council would promote and collect feedback about the program from other students. Each year, FP&M converted additional facilities as funds allow. 

“Currently, FP&M stocks free menstrual products in 330 bathrooms in 75 campus buildings,” Holden said.

University custodial staff are in charge of restocking the dispensers. Anyone who finds empty dispensers is encouraged to let their building manager know or contact Physical Plant Customer Service

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