ASWC Senate advocates for student health

Autumn Dixon

ASWC Senate is currently trying to implement an initiative to make free menstrual care products more available to students on campus. While students can already pick up products at no charge in the Health and Wellness Center, this initiative would provide products in more accessible places, such as in the restrooms of classrooms and dorms. Currently, ASWC Senate is discussing the budget with the Health and Wellness Center and other departments on campus to fund this project. 

Gender neutral restroom in the Science and Learning Center.

Gender neutral restroom in the Science and Learning Center.

The beginning of ASWC’s mission statement reads, “The ASWC Senate, as the governing body of the Associated Students of Whittier College, is dedicated to the betterment of the College as an institution and as a member of the broader community.” Providing more accessible and free menstrual care products was pitched last semester as a way to better the student life environment, and ASWC has been taking steps to make it happen during the Spring Semester. “We really wanted to take this and make it more than just an idea, and actually bring it into something that’s physical, tangible, and able to be seen on campus,” said ASWC Senate Student Body Representative Kole Joachim. The first steps towards taking action in this includes finding a budget and drafting a bill to support the project. 

In order to draft an effective bill, the Senate members began looking at colleges in the surrounding area that have similar programs in order to get ideas of what this initiative should look like. Local colleges such as Occidental College and Pomona College have provided products or held drives to fundraise and raise awareness on the matter. In terms of budgeting, ASWC has been in contact with the Health and Wellness Center. “Right now, the major step we are taking is discussing the budget aspect with the Health and Wellness Center because they have a very similar program, so we want to see more of what the financial impact on the ASWC budget would be,” said Joachim. In addition to reaching out to the Health and Wellness Center for funding, the Senate plans on talking to departments on campus — such as Gender Studies — to also contribute and be cosponsors.

Implementing this on campus would be a step towards gender equality at the College. Currently, there are free contraceptives placed in the majority of dorm restrooms. Condoms started being provided at large for free during the AIDS crisis and was effective in reducing the transmission of STDs through sex. While there are free menstrual care products provided in the Health and Wellness Center, it would be an inconvenient walk for someone who just started their period in the Science and Learning Center or outside of the open hours of the Health and Wellness Center. “Our goal as ASWC Senate is to have it as an initiative where it’s more for emergency use,” Joachim said. “Where if someone does need it and they don’t have any menstrual care products on them, then there will be some available for them.” Having the same accessibility to menstrual care products as students do to condoms would fall in line with the Senate’s mission statement of bettering the College, because it would show the Senate’s dedication to student health and well-being. 

Students on campus agree with the proposals put forth by the ASWC Senate. “If condoms are easily accessible, assuming that, as young people, we are having sex, then menstrual products should be just as accessible since, under that same assumption, young people are also menstruating,” said second-year Danni Worthy Mays. 

Because this initiative has a lot of moving parts and multiple people involved, the effects of this might not be seen on campus until next year. “With something as large as this, we don’t know if it will necessarily be this year,” said Joachim, “but some sort of physical evidence of it being implemented on campus we hope to achieve this semester.” In this case, physical evidence would include having free menstrual care products available in at least some of the restrooms on campus. Students or faculty with additional questions or concerns on the menstrual care initiative can attend ASWC Senate meeting Mondays at 7 p.m. during the public voice section.