Otterbein student organization Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equality's (URGE) attempt to bring free menstrual products to campus has been met with vandalism and destruction of property.
Last spring, URGE was awarded a grant of approximately $3,500 to initiate the Aunt Flow pilot program. The program funded the installment of plastic storage boxes containing free menstrual products. These boxes hang on the walls of all men's, women's and gender-neutral bathrooms in six campus buildings.
According to a campuswide email sent by the academic affairs office, nearly one-half of the plastic boxes have been "destroyed or significantly damaged."
“In terms of the vandalism, that’s not only destruction of property, but it can also go to our Title IX coordinator,” said Madison Moore, a student member of URGE. “Especially if there’s an eyewitness, it starts to go into that channel of hate crimes and biased acts."
The vandalism is most common in the men's and gender-neutral bathrooms. In Roush Hall, all of the installations in the men’s restrooms have been destroyed.
According to Marisa Hartt, vice president of URGE, the decision to place products in all bathrooms was very important.
“We have transgender students, and they should be able to use whichever bathroom they prefer,” said Hartt. “It’s also a kindness that people could show for each other. What if someone you know needs a product? You’re able to go into a restroom and get that for them.”
URGE members collect weekly data on the amount of products used to keep them in stock. At the end of the semester, they hope to take this data to administration to make the program more permanent.
One thing members need to address with administration is budget. So far at Otterbein, it's estimated to cost about $5 per menstruator to give everyone free menstrual products for the entire year. Providing the products in all six buildings costs about $4,000-$5,000.
“The goal is to make it campuswide, but if Otterbein decides that’s not something they can do, there’s the option of breaking it down and just providing products in certain bathrooms,” said Moore.
In response to the vandalism, URGE and the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program held a campus conversation about the program.