Grand Valley State University student Alex Hicks was curious about how access to menstrual health products impacted higher education students. Because there was very little information available, they conducted their own research at GVSU.
The Menstrual Health Task Force worked to develop a list of tiered recommendations to the GVSU Dean of Students office. Chaired by Katie Jourdan, student health promotions coordinator, the task force used research conducted by Hicks to develop solutions that would help GVSU students.
“We did quite a bit of research,” Jourdan said. “We definitely used a lot of Alex’s report for Grand Valley-specific information, but we also did a lot of research around the surrounding schools and what other programs are doing.”
The cost of implementation was a major factor in the development of the recommendations due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jourdan said.
“We went in knowing that the university is having some budget constraints being in the pandemic, but also realizing students are seeing those constraints as well and the need for menstrual hygiene products has gone up,” Jourdan said. “We want to increase access as much as possible so we gave a wide array of potential options.”
These recommendations included increasing awareness about resources at GVSU, providing products in gender-neutral and women’s restrooms for free, and switching to a brand that offers more comfort and aligns with GVSU’s values.
The task force received support from the Division of Student Affairs, the Center for Women and Gender Equity and Student Senate for the first year of their effort. Hicks said that the funding will be used to provide free menstrual products in one bathroom per building across the Allendale and Grand Rapids campuses.
Now that the recommendations have been made, the Basic Needs Task Force will begin working with students to put them into action, said Student Support Manager Emily First.
“We recommended that students be heavily involved in that process,” Jourdan said. “Our recommendation was that the Basic Needs Taskforce pull a group of students together to suggest the most highly visible or highly access bathroom per building.”
They also received support to partner with Mission Menstruation, a nonprofit that works with universities to provide menstrual health support and products to students.
Throughout the process, GVSU administration and facilities have been supportive, First and Hicks said.
“I think everything I heard in response to this was it was positive,” First said. “That to me shows a willingness to advocate on our behalf to help us make the goal come true.”
As they will be graduating this semester from GVSU, Hicks said that they hope to see continued support and advocacy once they are no longer a student.
“It is super cool to see that this has been fulfilled, but I am hesitantly hopeful because we only have a plan for one year out and after that year I’m going to be gone,” Hicks said. “I’m really hopeful, especially with the people at the institution and that I served on the task force with is engaged and really excited about it, so I’m really hopeful that this will be continued.”