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Progress on menstrual equity project slows due to USG and University inaction

Student government, ASU administrators and the Women's Coalition are working slowly and separately to carry out the project with little communication


A project designed to put menstrual products in bathrooms across campuses has slowed due to lack of coordination with student government, administrators and the Women's Coalition. Illustration originally published Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

Undergraduate Student Government, University administrators and members of ASU's Women's Coalition are working slowly and separately to carry out the menstrual equity project and not communicating with each other on its progress. 

In 2019, USG Tempe worked with Planned Parenthood Generation Action to place free menstrual products in popular bathrooms on all four metro Phoenix campuses. At the time, products were placed in three buildings on the Tempe campus, five buildings on the Polytechnic campus, four buildings on the Downtown Phoenix campus and three buildings on the West campus.

A list of locations provided by USG updated in June shows menstrual products are meant to be available in 11 buildings on the Tempe campus, nine buildings on the Polytechnic campus, eight buildings on the Downtown Phoenix campus and five buildings on the West campus.

Renuka Vemuri, the president of USG Downtown and a senior studying medical studies, said student government leaders have been working with their advisers over the last year to figure out the best way to expand the project.

Currently, products are reportedly only in women's restrooms on the Downtown Phoenix campus, as some buildings do not have gender-neutral restrooms. USGD has also had issues in the past with placing products in men's restrooms, including them being misused or thrown away.

Women's Coalition Co-President Mastaani Qureshi said progress has slowed over the last year, as USG and University administrators have stopped communicating with the coalition on the state of the project. She attributed this to a change in the USGT administration and staffing changes within Educational Outreach and Student Services.

"We have very limited knowledge of what's going on since we were involved (in the) spring," Qureshi said. "The last time we were in meetings was last semester."

Qureshi, a senior studying history and justice studies, said although the Women's Coalition was not the founding group of the project, it should be the group most involved in its implementation around campus because it represents female students, the group that needs the resources. 

Qureshi said the project had formerly been overseen by Michele Grab, who served as the adviser for Women's Coalition and assistant vice president of Student Services. Since Grab left the University in August, Women's Coalition has been unable to find out who is overseeing the project. 

Additionally, the coalition has not heard updates from the current USGT administration regarding its involvement in the project. 

"I feel like this really shows (where) the John Hopkins ticket (stands) on this and how much of this is a priority for them, and how aware they are of the history behind this project," Qureshi said.

John Hopkins, president of USGT, did not respond to a request for comment.

At a town hall hosted on the Tempe campus in October by ASU Women's Coalition, students expressed concern about the low number of locations and how products were not stocked often enough. Qureshi said the group's goal was to expand the project to include every building on campus including gender-neutral, male and female restrooms.

Cat Corbett, an ASU alumna who was the president of PPGEN at ASU in 2019 and spearheaded the menstrual equity project, said she and other members of PPGEN also faced difficulties when trying to implement the project.

"It took a lot of time, effort and dedication towards fighting for a cause like this – not to mention the anger and frustration we were feeling about this issue, along with many other students on campus, also fueled our campaign with the energy we needed to really get this done," Corbett said.

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PPGEN originally wanted the project to include every bathroom on campus, but the pilot program was reduced to student center bathrooms, Corbett said.

Women's Coalition cannot take over the project, as it belongs to USG and the ASU administration, but they have been pursuing other options within their own power, according to Nithara Murthy, the coalition's director of advocacy.

Murthy, a senior studying global health and psychology, said the group has been working to place drop boxes of products in different places around all four campuses. Currently, there are only drop boxes on the Tempe and West campuses, with locations in residence halls.

"There have been quite a bit of locations that we've already achieved over the past year, but the goal is to expand and be able to (put) in more drop boxes," Murthy said.

Despite their own efforts, Women's Coalition still wants to be involved in the menstrual equity project and is confused why they're not being involved or updated.

"(The) administration and USG should be taking the initiative to involve the Women's Coalition in this," Qureshi said. "We have tried reaching out several times, we have tried finding the administrator, but we haven't been invited to anything."

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Reagan PriestManaging Editor

Reagan Priest is a managing editor, overseeing and working with the six digital desks at The State Press. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.

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