Starting in the spring 2019 semester, free feminine hygiene products will be available for students in dispensers located in both female and gender neutral restrooms in areas such as the Student Union, the Recreation and Wellness Center and All Knight Study.
UCF’s Student Government Association passed a resolution with a 37-0 vote during a senate meeting Thursday night encouraging the university to provide these services. The resolution aims to follow in the footsteps of other universities that have already established free menstrual products across the country, UCF SGA College of Health Professions Sen. Kevin Olsen said.
With more than 37,000 female students enrolled at UCF as of fall 2018, according to Institutional Knowledge Management, this resolution could potentially benefit more than half of the student population. It may also benefit transgender and other gender non-conforming identifying individuals at UCF.
Olsen, a sophomore health sciences major, said he introduced the bill four weeks ago during an informal meeting session. Olsen, 20, said he spoke with officials from the University of Nebraska and the county facilities manager for the Greece Central School District in New York to develop how the implementation of the free products would work at UCF.
Both school systems have implemented policies that provide free feminine hygiene products, Olsen said.
“At the end of the day, I just want [UCF] to do something that I would be proud to say my sister, my mother, my girlfriend, my friends can have access to the products that they need when they need it most,” Olsen said.
On Jan. 1, the Florida Senate passed a tax exemption for feminine hygiene products. This exemption makes companies unable to impose a sales tax on these products, saving Florida residents nearly $11 million per year, according to Olsen's resolution.
The exact number of bathrooms these dispensers will be located in has not been determined yet.
According to the resolution, SGA's executive branch will provide dispensers and female hygiene supplies during a trial period in the spring 2019 semester. After the trial period ends, university officials will be provided with an expense report that documents the total cost of products in the specified bathrooms, including how frequently these products need to be purchased and restocked.
Based on these expense reports, further expansion plans will be made, according to the resolution.
Olsen said the total amount of funds going toward the project has not been decided as of yet, but funding will be discussed at an upcoming meeting with Student Body President Josh Boloña and SGA Director of Rights Ryan Klimas.
Inspiration for the resolution came a month ago when Olsen heard from Christine Hanlon, an associate lecturer for Nicholson School of Communication and Media, who said she had difficulties accessing hygiene products during a football game. Olsen and Hanlon have been in contact about the situation ever since.
Due to UCF's clear-bag policy at Bright House Network's Stadium, Hanlon did not bring any money in change with her to the game. The concessions area also has a policy prohibiting visitors exchanging bills for change.
Current dispensers placed around campus require people to use quarters in order to receive hygiene products, Olsen said. In the end, Hanlon had to leave the arena to seek the products she needed.
Karli Reeves, a 21-year-old senior anthropology major and member of the Reproductive Justice Knights Project, expressed excitement about the resolution passing.
According to the organization's official Facebook page, RJKR's mission is "to create a space in which everyone can exercise their rights and obtain access to the resources they need to thrive."
Reeves said the lack of access to these products may cause students to not come to school.
“I think it is important for people to have access to these products without having to pay for them,” Reeves said. “Valuing health is valuing education.”
The resolution will be sent to a group of UCF staff members to explore the possibility of providing free menstrual products campuswide in the future.