Rushing to the restroom in Parlin Hall between back to back classes, I frantically searched my backpack. No tampons, no pads, nothing. Sighing, I pulled my wallet out, closed my bag and left the stall. I had a few quarters in my hand and was about to slide them into the feminine product dispenser when I noticed the yellow sticker: out of service.
I tried a restroom in Waggener Hall, where my next class was. Not a dispenser in sight. Surely there had to be one in the all-gender restroom in Carothers Hall, a male and female dorm. There wasn’t one there either. I sighed in relief when I raced to the women’s room in McCombs and saw a dispenser. Finally. I turned the knob before I noticed what the small screen said. Empty.
Feminine products are essential for the hygiene of over half of UT’s student populations. However, finding a convenient place to purchase tampons or pads on UT’s campus is difficult and often frustrating. Dispensers are few and far between, and they are often broken, empty or both.
Currently, several well-trafficked buildings, in addition to those I mentioned above, either have empty and/or broken machines, or no machines at all. UT needs to properly maintain its existing feminine product dispensers on campus and install machines in high traffic buildings.
“Having working, well-stocked machines would be so helpful, not just for me but for everyone who has a menstrual cycle on campus,” said Sanjana Srinath, a biomedical engineering sophomore.
The women’s restroom on the main floor of the Perry-Castañeda Library does not have a dispenser. Neither do the restrooms in the lobby of Jester West, the largest residence hall on campus. The dispenser in the restroom on the main floor of Gregory Gym is empty. The list goes on.
“Feminine products should be easily, even readily available,” undeclared freshman Ishi Tripathi said. “There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be.”
Shilpa Bakre, the University Communications Strategist, said UT is aware of students’ desire for more feminine products. In response, UT began to undertake a program to increase the availability of feminine products.
At the end of October, UT implemented new feminine product dispensers in the Texas Union and is planning to install the machines in Student Activity Center as well. The machines are state of the art, and the pads and tampons are free.
However, while free pads and tampons are nice, UT’s current plan to install the new machines in only two buildings does little to make obtaining feminine products more convenient for students overall.
My daily route keeps me predominantly on the south side of campus, fairly far from the Union, and in between classes, I don’t have time for a jog to the SAC.
If the dispensers are empty, and no one around has any tampons or pads to spare, I have to choose between being uncomfortable for the rest of the day and giving up and going home. UT students shouldn’t be forced to make this decision.
“Something so basic and normal as menstruating should not ever, in any way, limit a woman,” Tripathi said.
Thus, in order to make feminine products available to all students who need them, UT needs to expand its current program to include all the main buildings, or at the very least replace the broken or consistently empty machines.
I should be able to walk into a women’s room on campus and find a working, stocked feminine product dispenser.
Zaksek is a first year Plan II and women’s and gender studies major.