Menstrual Products Still up for Debate

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By Brent Anderson

Photographer

The Center for Student Engagement and Leadership, CSEL, holds dozens of meetings each quarter. Most people probably picture several people with fancy name plates sitting around a table, talking about finances for hours on end. While in some instances you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that, some meetings are about things that will actually interest students, who are invited to voice their own opinions.

The town hall meeting on May 30 was one of those meetings. Approximately 20 students attended, and those who showed up were passionate about the issues that CSEL brought up, and a few times the debates became rather contentious.

The first subject on the agenda: Menstrual Product Accessibility. After The Triton Review brought awareness to the lack of menstrual products around campus front and center, the CSEL board had to address it. This was the third meeting where the issue was discussed.

And oh, what a discussion it was.

To see the extent that this issue has affected the community, CSEL sent out a blanket email across all active student EdMail accounts. You probably received the message, regardless of your gender. According to the campus demographics there are approximately 10,600 students enrolled at EdCC per quarter, all of whom should have received the survey. As Alice Duong, Executive Officer for Academics, said during the presentation, they heard back from 111 people.

During the town hall meeting there were many varying opinions on the lack of menstrual products. Some were critical of the college, some felt that the entire situation was a non-issue, and one contributor suggested that EdCC’s female students should be charged for the products straight out of their tuition.

Needless to say, this particular idea did not win much acclaim.

The CSEL presenters handled all of this with patience and humility, allowing for the discussion to progress so long as it was constructive, and only intervening when it was clear that things had become contentious.

As Zasar Jongpermwattanapol, Executive Officer for Budget and Finance, would say during the second half of the town hall meeting, “there are no bad ideas in this space.” True to their word, members of CSEL never interjected or interrupted any contributor, nor did they make anyone feel as though their suggestions were unwelcome.

The future of menstrual products on campus isn’t clear yet, but one thing is clear: if you see something on campus that you’d like to change, talk about it. Had students not brought this to the board, it would not have been addressed. Change happens when you take action.


By Sierra Buckley

A&E Editor

Despite sparking many conversations around menstrual product accessibility at Edmonds Community College, including three meetings of the student government, change has been slow, so we took matters into our own hands.

In April, The Triton Review reported on the limited access to menstrual products on campus, and sought to show the readers how this is impacting student education. Menstrual products were removed from bathrooms years ago due to theft, which is definitely a concern, but this was not the appropriate solution.

Soon after publication, Amanda Greene, a Healthy Relationship Team (HEART) advocate, proposed a menstrual drive, and the quest began. Throughout the month of May, The Triton Review staff members were collected over 1,300 menstrual products that they obtained through donations from EdCC community members, as well as two large donations from the local Value Village. They made their debut on campus in the last week of May.

At the time of publication, these are the locations where the boxes can be found:

  • Both ends of the first floor of Mountlake Terrace (MLT).
  • Outside the Learning Support Center, first floor of Mukilteo.
  • The seating lounge on the second floor of Brier.
  • The International Student Center on the third floor of Snohomish.
  • Seaview (ask a staff member).
  • The library (ask a staff member).
  • The table across from the main entrance of Meadowdale.
  • The first floor hallway of Woodway.

There are two boxes housed in Mountlake Terrace, and they are no doubt the most popular, having to be replenished at least once a day. It’s clear that they are very much needed. This should be no surprise, as MLT is where a large portion of day classes take place.

Two smaller boxes have disappeared from Alderwood, and another from Snoqualmie. I cannot say that theft hasn’t been an issue, though I hesitate to refer to it as theft, since period poverty is a real issue in our world. Those who take them most likely genuinely need them and they may not know if they’ll have another opportunity to get them. If menstrual products were more readily available, and a better system was put into place, then this would be less of an issue, which is evident by the successful programs at other colleges.

The University of Washington and Washington State University both provide menstrual products in their bathrooms, for free. WSU has also made it a point to include them in men’s and gender neutral bathrooms in order to make them accessible to students of all genders who menstruate.

During our drive we asked students how access to menstrual products would improve their education. There were also multiple gender diverse students that explained it would make them feel more validated in their gender identities, which could help relieve their gender dysphoria.

“[T]heft has thankfully not been an issue,“ explained Chelsea Nesvig, a librarian at UW Bothell. “Perhaps part due to the request to ‘only take what is needed in order to sustain this service,’ but perhaps also the fact that many students are grateful this got implemented and do not want to see it go away.”

In other words, the two largest universities in Washington have implemented free menstrual product programs that have been successful. Schools all across the country are recognizing that menstrual products are a basic need for their students, and are actively trying to make them accessible to all who need them. Just this year the state of New York has made it mandatory that public schools provide their students with menstrual products.

Whether or not EdCC is obligated to provide menstrual products to their students has been up for debate throughout Spring 2019. However, the question shouldn’t be if they will provide them, it should be when they will provide them. Our culture is changing, and other schools have already set a precedent on this matter. Will EdCC follow suit, or be the one that waited until they had to?