Period products in men’s restrooms around campus were thrown out or defaced by individuals, causing Facilities Management and the Title IX Office to search for other distribution methods.
Facilities Management Director Craig Holan said the vandalism was most notable in the MUC and Peck Hall after SIUE began complying with HB 641, which requires period products in all campus restrooms.
“First in the MUC, who were the first folks to get that installed. And then we have had it at a couple of other locations, notably in Peck Hall, three of the four men’s rooms have had their baskets taken and thrown in the trash,” Holan said.
Jamie Ball, Director of Equal Opportunity, Access and Title IX Coordination, said the university is considering changing to a vending machine model with a delay after each product is distributed.
“You push a button, a product dispenses and then it won’t dispense another one for 10 seconds. So you can’t just sit there and bang the button and get all the products out and throw them away,” Ball said. “If someone needs something, they can get it and then the products are still there for everybody else.”
Another machine the university is looking at is one that requires a text to be sent in order for a product to be dispensed.
Holan said the department is paying attention to the usage rate of products to inform future distribution plans.
“Now that we [have] the free model where you can take out as much as you want, we’re watching that to see what impact that has, if any, on the rate of use of the product,” Holan said. “We need to be able to maintain it.”
Holan said until a solution is agreed upon, Facilities Management will continue replacing any damaged products.
“In the meanwhile we’ll continue with the next project. And unfortunately we will have to continue to replace baskets and products [that are] removed or trashed,” Holan said. “It’s just an expense that we’ll have to bear until we can figure out the solution that not just accommodates, but provides a service.”
Instructor Christy Ferguson, creator of the Mensi Project, released an email to supporters before going on medical leave stating the project will continue with its mission despite the vandalism.
“This project will continue to stand against the sexism, misogyny and transphobia that bring shame and fear to every human on the planet who menstruates. We will not be silenced. We will not back down. Rest assured that those kits will be replaced,” the email said.
Business professor Robyn Berkley will be taking over the Mensi Project while
Ferguson is away.
Ball said if students notice damaged or missing baskets they should file a Bias Incident Report and the team will follow up on it. She said when they receive reports they try to strike a balance between informing the campus community of what’s going on and amplifying hateful views.
Ball said there is also a line between expressing opinions and committing acts that warrant a student conduct response.
“In my opinion, this situation with the hygiene products being tampered with [is] a very clear situation in my mind. It’s not like we’re trying to address someone’s opinion about that situation,” Ball said. “No, you did something. You damaged property. You don’t get to do that. There’s a clear limit on your ability to express your opinion in that way.”
This vandalism comes after anti-trans stickers were placed around campus in previous weeks, which Ball says is also a student conduct matter. Students recently came to Ball with leads on who may be behind the stickers.
“The super sleuthers were out in force and I was so excited and proud of our community for making that effort to use whatever resources they have to share the information that they have,” Ball said. “Because truthfully, I think that these types of incidents are hard to investigate, unless we have a starting point like that.”