By Abigail Wooster | Staff News Writer
Upon returning to campus this fall, students found metal boxes on the walls of many campus restrooms containing tampons and pads for students at no cost.
These boxes were installed over the summer in compliance with Washington State House Bill 1273, which requires that many educational institutions, including all colleges and universities, provide feminine hygiene products in gender-neutral and women’s bathrooms for free by the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year.
The bill was passed by the house and senate in April 2021 and filed in the Office of Secretary of State in May 2021, allowing a full school year and two summers for universities to prepare for this new responsibility.
Many Whitworth students, welcomed this change on campus. “Sometimes when women start their menstrual cycles, [they] don’t expect it,” explained sophomore Jessica Castellon. “So, it’s nice to have stuff in the bathroom [for] when [they’re] not prepared — especially if [they’re] running late to class and need to grab a product.”
While the feminine hygiene products in the bathrooms are convenient, and sometimes urgently necessary, providing them might prove costly over time.
“On July 13th, we ordered 150 containers…[which] cost us $4,705,” explained Chris Eichorst, Assistant Vice President of Facilities Services.
This figure was just the cost of the boxes that hold the pads and tampons. Of course, refilling each box with feminine hygiene products will render additional, recurring costs. “We have no idea what the consumption rate will be,” said Eichorst. “We want to advocate that people use [the products] as needed and not hoard them.”
Though Whitworth paid for the boxes around campus and is paying for the contents inside each one, Bill 1273 permits that universities “…may seek grants or partner with non-profit or community-based organizations to fulfill this obligation.” This means that Whitworth Facilities has the option to ask for outside financial assistance for the cost of the feminine hygiene products, should the need arise.
Some students anticipated the installation of these boxes. “I knew that a lot of universities were doing it anyway because [they are a] really good thing to have,” commented senior Katina Stanbrough.
“I think it is fantastic,” Stanbrough reflected. “It really gives women and non-binary people… a safe way to get [the] useful products that they need.”