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Campus & Community

Necessities at No Cost. Period.

Free Menstrual Products Coming Soon to Hundreds of UMD Bathrooms

By Sala Levin ’10

Workers install dispensers of free period products in bathroom

More than 400 free menstrual product dispensers are being placed in 100 academic and administrative buildings, part of a joint effort from Facilities Management and the Student Government Association. It's the continuation of a program that started last summer to expand access to necessary hygiene products on campus.

Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle

Terps who find themselves in quick need of a tampon or menstrual pad are about to get a slew of new resources—and none of them involves the magnanimity of a stranger in the bathroom.

Starting this week, 425 fully stocked dispensers of free period products are being installed in 100 academic and administrative buildings across campus; a similar effort will follow soon in residence halls. The first dispensers are going into the School of Public Health Building, Van Munching Hall and the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, among dozens of others.

period product dispenser

Twenty-five were placed in buildings including the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center in August and September 2021 as a pilot run, funded by a Student Government Association surplus. Josie Shaffer ’22, then director of SGA’s student facilities fund, spearheaded the student-proposed project.

“As a flagship university, it’s really important that UMD provide these free menstrual products,” said Shaffer. “So many visitors come every day, and if you get your period and don’t know or run out of a product, you have to go home or somewhere out of your way.”

In summer 2020, Shaffer launched a menstrual product climate survey to gather data on the need for this project. That survey got more than 300 responses, confirming the demand. Shaffer researched other Big Ten schools and found that many of them offered free period products. That fall, the SGA allocated $48,000 from surplus funds to the installation of the initial 25 dispensers. Facilities Management, which collaborated with Shaffer on the project, has provided $87,000 to cover the cost of the machines and installation.

Usage of the dispensers has been “slowly increasing as people see them and as the information’s getting out,” said Andrew Espeseth, associate director of building services in Facilities Management. With the expanded coverage, more people in more buildings will be able to access the products, which will be available in women’s and single-occupancy restrooms.

“We consider this comparable to visiting a restroom and having soap, toilet paper and paper towels available. Now menstrual products will also be available,” said Gina Federer, program director for communications in Facilities Management.

Shaffer, now a law student at the University of Baltimore, said she will continue to support the on-campus effort even from her new location. “I’m excited to come back as an alum to see it,” she said. “I will drive to any bathroom.”

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