The University’s Davison Health Center will now be offering menstrual products at a reduced cost to students due to a proposition from the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA). The pilot program is the culmination of the work of students interested in ensuring these health products are available at a reasonable price and in an accessible location.
The initiative was spearheaded by Angel Riddle ’19, who started the project on in the fall of 2016. According to WSA member Livia Wallick ’20, who took over the endeavor when Riddle moved on to other work, the program owes its origin to a post in the WesAdmits Facebook group.
“There was a post in WesAdmits a while ago [in which] someone was kind of ranting about how there weren’t any free menstrual products in bathrooms, and how it’s a really natural process that a lot of people go through,” explained Wallick. “We provide soap and paper towels and everything like that, but not menstrual products. So [Riddle] came up with the initiative to work on this, and get in contact with the health center and some companies to see if we could [provide products] for free, but it ended up being really expensive, so we came up with the idea of purchasing menstrual products at cost and then selling them at cost.”
According to Wallick, this idea has been in the works since the spring of 2016, when the WSA passed a resolution voicing support for access to menstrual products as a human right. While Riddle put the initiative into action, Wallick, along with Student Life Committee chair Lizzie Shackney ’17, helped it come to fruition.
“We’ve been concerned about accessibility–both financial and physical, like being stranded in Usdan without access to anything–for a while, and this is the solution we were able to come up with alongside Davison and Student Affairs,” Shackney explained in an email to The Argus. “Products in Weshop and in-store are expensive and getting off campus to buy what you need is not a sustainable solution.”
Wallick described that much of her role in the undertaking was simply writing emails to administration members to promote involvement in the project. According to Wallick, Director of Davison Health Center Joyce Walter played a seminal role in ensuring the products were available to students.
“I am part of the Student Affairs Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the WSA proposed the idea of providing menstrual products for students,” Walter wrote in an email to The Argus. “The Health Center orders many supplies and I reviewed inventory through our vendors and found bulk products which are very inexpensive to distribute. The Health Center sells other medical supplies so it seems natural to offer menstrual products.”
University Students received a campus-wide email detailing the distribution of products at Davison Health Center on Feb. 10.
“The Health Center has purchased bulk supplies of Naturelle regular absorbency tampons and Maxithins individually wrapped sanitary pads,” the email reads. “Supplies will be available 6 days a week when the Health Center is open. The cost is $2.00 for 15 tampons and $2.00 for 10 maxi-pads, and students can pay by cash or charge to their student account.”
Before purchasing menstrual products, students must fill out a form that details which products they would prefer and the amount they would like to purchase.
“Students interested in purchasing should complete the form and bring it to the reception desk at the Health Center,” Walter explained. “We have bags ready for distribution of each product.”
Though this is a step forward in terms of the provision of menstrual products to the student body, there is the potential for future steps, according to Walter.
“We are starting the pilot program this week with the WSA student announcement,” Walter explained. “It is the hope of SAAC to find funding to distribute in other large venues on campus.”
Shackney echoed the same sentiments.
“If there’s a lot of demand for products, I’m sure we’ll expand—we’ve talked about finding ways to provide products in Usdan, Olin, and Exley as well, so I think that’s the next move,” she said.
Though the pilot program is still young, Wallick is excited for the direction this venture will take.
“Right now, I think this is a really great step in the right direction, having affordable menstrual products,” she explained. “I think it’s something that’s important to do at Wes because more than half of the student population menstruates, and most people who menstruate in their lifetime have been caught in a situation where they’re uncomfortable or been caught unaware by their period, so this alleviates some of that stress and lets students and faculty and staff at Wesleyan live their best lives.”