By Lexus Yamashiro | Staff Writer
When it comes to facing spontaneous menstruation moments and embarrassing leaks, females hope to find some type of feminine hygiene product within a bathroom to resolve these issues in the case that they forget one at home. For second-year student Jennifer Millikin, she understands this frustration that women face and recognizes the position that females are often put in when products are not available.
“You don’t think twice about ‘Oh my gosh, there’s no toilet paper in this stall,’ but … imagine if we would be like “Oh my gosh, there’s no feminine products in here,” Millikin said. “It’s uncomfortable and then you have shame.”
In an attempt to ease this struggle that females face monthly, the 51-year-old, who serves as the vice president of services for the KCC Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society, is working towards the goal of providing feminine hygiene products into bathrooms around campus free of charge.
The idea to turn this issue into a college project came about over a natural conversation sparked between Millikin and Kiana DeYoung, the president of PTK. Both women expressed their frustrations of how significantly menstruation cycles can affect females. Millikin and DeYoung addressed that periods can affect women in various ways and that the lack of a hygiene product due to a financial issue or forgetfulness may often cause females to skip school.
“We’re looking to prevent accidents and to remove shame, or [to] just make something reliable for women to know that [hygiene products are] there instead of having to remember all the time,” Millikin said.
Knowing that there’s a slow movement across the country to make feminine hygiene products more accessible, the two believed that taking action now was appropriate in order to initiate a change. To get the project started, both women were given confirmation by their advisor, Julie Rancilio, to meet with interim Chancellor Louise Pagotto in October of Fall 2017 to present their reasons of how females and the campus overall can benefit from this.
“As a woman, I face those kinds of situations so I know the frustrations the students were reporting,” Pagotto said. “If they did have some measures in place to know whether this [will be] effective or successful, and if it did prove to be successful, how would we continue this as a college?”
Needing to develop statistics first, PTK created a petition on change.org to see who would be supportive of the idea of a college institution providing hygiene products for free. Since the petition’s launch in October, 116 individuals have signed in agreeance with this proposal as of Monday evening. PTK has also gone around campus to collect written signatures from those on campus and received 38 signatures near the end of November.
Seeing that a majority of females who they approached were in favor of having these products available in bathrooms, Millikin decided to reach out to the male community to compare how the opposite gender and different generations would feel. She first spoke with an older gentleman, who did not want to be identified, and asked him what his thoughts were on having these products accessible for women. The man objected, expressing that if he were a student attending KCC, he would not want to pay for these products and that it would possibly pose as a financial burden on some students. Millikin then turned to her 20-year-old son, Tanner Millikin, who immediately gave an empathetic response believing that feminine hygiene products should be placed in bathrooms.
As PTK continues to look for support from students and faculty members on campus, the challenge of having these products monitored in bathrooms raises questions from the Auxiliary Services department. Chris Edmonds, the director of Facilities and Auxiliary Services, said that with the limited janitorial staff that KCC currently faces, providing feminine hygiene products in every bathroom on campus may be difficult to maintain.
“My first question always to anything is, ‘Will we be able to maintain it?” Edmonds said. “Is there a happy medium where we could maintain it, but it also provides a valuable service?”
To test how providing these products will impact females who use the bathrooms on campus, Millikin and DeYoung — along with project members Candy Ndeda, Augustine Luc, Maria McClellan, and Tabitha Kaniho — will start by providing only pads in a basket to be left in the busiest bathroom of either ʻIliahi or Kōpiko. Looking to launch in Spring 2018, the PTK members will monitor the targeted bathroom over the course of a few months to collect data on how many pads are actually being used. All data collected will be reported to Pagotto once it is finished.
Millikin shared that if the campus approves of this project that PTK is looking to extend its findings to the state legislature. She hopes that a bill can be pushed to acknowledge that feminine hygiene products should be placed in public schools, colleges, prisons, and shelters, similar to the Assembly Bill No.10 Chapter 687 approved in Calif. which states that 50% of bathrooms on a public school’s campus will provide feminine hygiene products for free to students from grade 6 to 12.
“What we would like [feminine hygiene products] to be is just like toilet paper,” Millikin said. “You don’t walk into a bathroom thinking ‘Oh, I better have a quarter to use 30 sheets of toilet paper.'”