Last week, several administrators began the process of repairing restroom tampon dispensers across campus after a resolution from the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico passed a bill that asked for change.
In the resolution, senators said bathrooms in the Student Union Building, Zimmerman Library and Johnson Center had tampon dispensers that were empty, inoperable or nonexistent. The solution would require building managers to repair, stock and create a structure to maintain the dispensers.
On Wednesday afternoon, the resolution was distributed to the building managers’ desks. The next morning, signs were up in Johnson Center apologizing for the tampon dispensers that were out of order.
“It should not have taken a resolution from ASUNM or inquiries from the Daily Lobo for Johnson Center to have fully functional tampon dispenser in all women’s facilities,” Jim Todd, director of Johnson Center, said in a written statement to the Daily Lobo. “I take responsibility and apologize.”
Top-level administrators are now in conversation with campus facilities management to ensure the tampon dispenser revitalization process is effective, streamlined and long-lasting, according to Walter Miller, associate vice president for Student Life.
Miller noted that many of the previous dispensers had been vandalized and made inoperable due to theft. His goal is to purchase newer models that are more theft-resistant, with the goal of making the units last longer.
“I was disappointed to see the state and lack of dispensers in the women’s restrooms,” said Maddie Starkweather, an ASUNM senator who co-sponsored the resolution. “Access to personal hygiene products on campus, especially tampons, is just another way to show support for students. It is both a symbol and an action that displays the University’s awareness for the student population and the things they are facing personally.”
Currently, the Women’s Resource Center provides about 1,000 tampons per year to students, one representative said.
“It’s an essential need, and so it’s something that should be available in all bathrooms,” said Anna Allegretti, a student employee at the WRC.
She said she was happy to see building managers taking action.
“It’s exciting, because we’re starting to mobilize,” Allegretti said. “I hope maybe long-term, we can see free tampons in the University and nationally. This is a good starting point.”
The current dispensers have not been maintained for at least two decades, according to Al Sena, director of UNM’s Physical Plant Department. He said an attempt to revitalize the dispensers in the 2000s ended after numerous incidences of vandalism and theft.
None of the administrators contacted by the Daily Lobo said they had been notified about the problem.
During ASUNM discussion of the resolution, numerous senators — including Becka Myers, another co-sponsor of the legislation — noted tampons should not only be accessible, but also free.
“There was pretty much no access to these hygienic products, so I think it’s really important to have a conversation about this,” Starkweather said.
Though conversations have started, it is not clear if policies like this will be introduced campus-wide.
Based on preliminary pricing, Miller estimates it will cost about $800 to replace broken dispensers in four of the SUB women’s restrooms.
If implemented across campus at a similar price, the cost would increase dramatically, making it more difficult and less likely to be implemented.
Despite the difficulty, some administrators see ASUNM’s effort as an important step.
“If students are feeling a need is not being met, it is important for us to support them,” said Dean of Students Nasha Torrez. “This is the culture of our vibrant University, where every student concern and need has validity.”
Brendon Gray is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.