by Jilleen Barrett & Jessica McKenzie, Asst. A&E Editor & Asst. Features Editor
Menstrual products are now available in fifteen bathrooms on Manhattan College’s campus. Since Oct. 2018, there has been a tremendous effort to improve menstrual equity in the MC community. As spring semester begins, these products have been made available to the student body.
Kaylyn Atkins, senior political science and international studies major and the student body president, has advocated for this effort since the beginning of fall semester after she was approached by Caroline Shea and Rose Brennan with the idea. Atkins gathered as many supporters she could, including sociology professor Roksana Badruddoja, Ph.D., Anne Mavor, director of Health Services and Jordan Pascoe, Ph.D., philosophy professor. Together they decided to set up menstrual product stations across campus.
“There were only three [stations]. One in Thomas, one in Kelly and one in Leo—North, Center and South campus. We wanted to see if people would actually take [pads and tampons] and it proved a success,” Atkins said.
Five freshmen, Megan LaCreta, Carolyn Allen, Anna Woods, Calissa McNeely and Caroline King were assigned to replenishing the stations. Every Monday they found that all of the products had been used.
“Having no menstrual support on campus was a public health issue … it was an issue of gender-based discrimination,” Atkins said.
The Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center has been involved in these efforts since the beginning, in addition to other gender equity projects. Jo-Ann Mullooly, a graduate assistant who has worked in the LWGRC since Aug. 2018, explained how the idea has progressed in just over a year.
“A few students came in here looking for products. I thought that the best thing to do was to start self-supplying the center with [menstrual products],” Mullooly stated.
She was particularly concerned about the commuter population on this campus. Without menstrual products available to them in a convenient and affordable fashion, they would have to go ho
me to obtain them, which meant missing classes and other obligations.
After finding the funds to purchase pads and tampons for the center, the LWGRC began stocking the two bathrooms on the third floor of Kelly Commons. The issue was eventually brought into discussion at student government and Senate meetings.
“It was a really powerful moment to see all these influential students, faculty, and staff on campus come together for the same purpose,” Mullooly said.
Rose Brennan, senior communication and English major, wrote a proposal discussing the issue of period poverty in the Bronx. This included a list of bathrooms on campus that could implement period products. Atkins edited the proposal and presented it to every administrator possible.
The actions taken to improve menstrual equity on campus was a combined effort involving the student government, the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center, the health center, administration, faculty members, Just Peace, Sodexo housekeeping company and more.
When the idea was proposed at the November Senate meeting, it received a unanimous vote in its favor.
“This can be a model for the future that if you involve more people, things can get done in a timely matter. Perseverance is key,” said Atkins.
One of the most important issues with this project was whether the products would be reduced cost or free. Their final resolution is that they should be free. In addition to the number of students who unexpectedly need these products, there are many who can’t afford them at all.
“We came to the conclusion that [period products] should be free because that is what the conversation is about—ending period poverty,” said Shea, who is speaker of the Senate.
Menstrual equity means improving gender-based problems at Manhattan College. In the meantime, student government and the LWGRC are co-sponsoring a Valentine’s Day themed event on Feb. 13 to celebrate the immense success of the dispensers.
“The purpose of the event is to show that menstruation should not be a taboo discussion,” Atkins said.
Shea and Atkins both said that the next gender-based issue they plan to tackle is the lack of gender neutral bathrooms on campus.