According to the research done by a passionate group of students, nearly 60% of students on Ohio University’s campus menstruate and are in need of period products throughout their day. Yet, there are only products provided in seven of the 1,285 on-campus restrooms.
Megan Handle, a junior studying social work, the OU Student Senate’s Women’s Affairs Commissioner has taken a stand against this neglect by the university. Handle is in her third year as a member of the Student Senate and is in her second term as Women’s Affairs Commissioner.
“A big part of social work is advocacy,” Handle said. “I just felt like Student Senate was a (place) where you can make a substantial change on campus and help out your peers”
On Feb. 22 at their weekly general body meeting, OU Student Senate passed Senate Resolution 2223-03, a bill in support of providing free period products in all bathrooms across OU.
“This project started way back in the fall, my friends and I noticed there just were not enough products, even where they were provided,” Handle said.
The goal of this initiative spans far beyond women’s restrooms; this bill falls in support of providing pads and tampons in each restroom on campus, including men’s and gender neutral facilities.
The legislation had 43 secondary sponsors, support from the Women’s Center and Graduate Student Senate along with members of the university's administration.
“Members of the commission went around and asked people to come in and speak in support of the bill,” Kennedy Huntsman, a junior studying political science, said. “We were actually expecting less support, we were certainly surprised by it but very happy.”
Huntsman is one of several Women’s Affairs Senators along with Shaneyl Spinner-Smith. They also work alongside Madalyn Blair, the Women’s Affairs Vice Commissioner.
“This feels like something that should have already been in place on campus, especially with their slogan being they prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, this is one of the most inclusive practices that they could employ, in my opinion,” Huntsman said.
The supporting members of the commission mainly worked to do research and find secondary sponsors, and Huntsman recognizes that the bulk of the work was done by Handle.
“I would just like to thank Megan, we were there along the way to help her, but she was just incredible in making this happen,” Huntsman said. “She is probably one of the best advocates that I’ve ever met for herself and for other people, and she is an incredible hard worker– if you put anything in front of her she is going to make it happen.”
Handle has worked closely with Letitia Price, assistant director of the Women’s Center, and Carly Leatherwood, the President’s Chief of Staff, to navigate phasing and funding for the project.
She also had the opportunity to meet with President Sherman to present her proposal. For the past six years, Student Senate has been responsible for funding the products that are provided on campus.
“He seemed very surprised that the university has not made any sort of investment in this cause, and that it was still such a comparatively small project on campus,” Handle said.
They are allocated $3,741.35 annually to fund period products on campus, yet this new investment through the university would amount to $89,820 for their first roll out, per Handle’s presentation to Student Senate.
Handle believes this shows what is currently happening on campus to be insufficient, but the initiative of the Women’s Affairs Commission promises to support menstruating individuals on campus.
“We’re supposed to be funding student organizations and student experiences,” Handle said. “Why are we paying for tampons? That is a basic need. It’s not something that we should be spending our funds on. This is something that should be provided by the university.”