University of Nebraska-Lincoln students returned to campus this semester to find feminine product dispensers in campus restrooms restocked for the first time since 2007. And this time, the products in the machines come free of charge.
“I think that’s really good,” said Ankita Ghotikar, a sophomore business management major. “If it’s an emergency, (the products) should be free. If I don’t have (a feminine product), I’ll definitely get one from there.”
Sophomore interior design major Danielle Durham said she agreed, acknowledging the amount of anxiety that will be relieved in those situations.
“I think that’s really great,” Durham said. “I mean, when you’re in an emergency, it’s good to know they’re there, and making it free makes it a lot less stressful. I really appreciate that.”
According to Christine Jackson, the vice chancellor for business and finance, UNL has either restocked or installed dispensers in the first-floor restrooms in almost all of UNL’s buildings. Signs are posted in women’s and unisex restrooms on remaining floors, which redirect individuals to restrooms and machines on the first floor.
The machines went empty as a cost-cutting measure in 2007. At the time, removing feminine product dispensers saved the university an estimated $70,000 in maintenance and stocking costs.
Prior to the emptying, the machines brought in about $1,000 in sales, which Jackson said was less than the amount they require for upkeep. Despite this statistic, Jackson says the transition to offering the products for free was an easy one.
“With very modest expected sales, the cost of putting the appropriate cash handling systems in place did not offset the costs of providing the products for free,” Jackson said in an email.
The machines were refilled at the request of the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women, which advises “the chancellor on issues pertaining to gender equity and on specific concerns of women faculty, staff and students at the university.” Jackson said the commission doesn’t currently have plans to expand the feminine product initiative to other floors.
According to Jackson, the cost of the project is estimated at $16,000 - $15,000 for initial installations and $1,000 in products. The funds for this project are coming from the university’s custodial services’ annual budget.
Some students have questioned the quality of the free products.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Cora Schlenker, sophomore pre-health major. “They’re probably not as high quality (as other products), but it’s still convenient, especially in case of emergency. I’d definitely use it.”