GW installs menstrual hygiene product dispensers across campus

Media Credit: Danielle Towers | Assistant Photo Editor

SA senators met in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic Monday night in the University Student Center's continental ballroom.

Updated: Sept. 2, 2021 at 10:36 a.m.

The University is funding and providing free pads and tampons at restroom dispensers on campus, Student Association President Brandon Hill announced at the SA Senate meeting Monday.

Hill said the SA’s executive branch worked with the Division for Student Affairs, Finance Division and Division of Safety and Facilities to fund the installation of dispensers across campus buildings. The SA has supported expanding access for menstrual hygiene products for years, funding the the People for Periods project – a student-led program stocking bathrooms with free pads and tampons – after it launched in 2017.

“It has long been in the works for several years, and we are grateful for the University for taking over this formerly student-run effort to support health,” Hill said at the meeting.

Catherine Morris, Hill’s chief of staff, said the dispensers – placed over the summer – are located in District House, the Milken Institute School of Public Health, the Elliott School of International Affairs, Gelman Library and Duques Hall in Foggy Bottom. She said Ames Hall and Eckles Library will also feature dispensers on the Mount Vernon Campus, as well as Innovation Hall on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus.

The meeting served as the senate’s first in-person gathering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, held in the Continental Ballroom in the University Student Center.

The senate unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by Vice President Kate Carpenter to expand the SafeRide system, the University’s program offering students free late-night rides on campus, to the West End neighborhood. Carpenter said West End houses much of the off-campus student population.

She said she launched a survey earlier this month to gauge students’ feedback on possible pick-up locations for the program in West End. Carpenter said she has met with Destiny Jackson, GW’s director of transportation and logistics, to discuss the program’s expansion after officials requested the senate to pass legislation and share survey results.

“I’m excited to send an email tomorrow with all of our finalized information including the survey that was sent out to the student body today as well as the past legislation to really solidify that the student body is interested in this,” Carpenter said. “I’m very excited to bring that to administration and then hopefully see some stuff happen promptly.”

The senate rejected legislation that would have set a fall referendum on allowing first-year students to run for senator positions in the SA and would have amended the SA’s recently updated constitution. The constitution originally excluded the creation of first-year seats last year.

The resolution states that freshmen would be able to elect first-year senators during fall elections if the student body approved holding the referendum.

Hill said he opposed the resolution because there would be lower turnout in the fall than in the spring, making the fall elections less representative of the student body. He said he preferred student elections to be held in the spring to maximize student turnout and allow freshmen to vote for students who they have known over a longer period of time.

“To do the following right now is asking for the senate to approve something without the maximum participation of the student body,” Hill said.

The legislation also would have replaced ranked-choice voting with plurality-at-large voting for multiple-seat constituencies like the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the Elliott School.

Under plurality-at-large voting, the candidates with the most votes would win regardless whether they receive a majority. Under ranked-choice voting, the candidate with the lowest number of first-place votes is eliminated from the race, and the other candidates move on to the next round until a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.

SA Sen. Chris Pino, CCAS-U and the sponsor of the legislation, said there is no evidence of lower turnout rates in fall elections instead of the spring, and that reason alone should not deprive first-years of representation on the SA. He said eliminating ranked choice voting in multi-seat elections is necessary because the results can become “muddled” and are not as easy to determine as they would be in single-seat elections.

“Ranked choice voting is great for single-seat races like president, vice president and any senate seats that are just one seat for election,” Pino said. “I think it’s fantastic in that regard, but in any other instance, it becomes ineffective.”

The senate voted to confirm nine senators at the meeting, leaving one vacancy in the senate – an at-large seat representing the Milken Institute School of Public Health. The senate kicked off its new term in May with 14 vacancies, filling five of them over the summer before senior Adam Snyder resigned from the senate last month.

The senate confirmed graduate students Kyle Johnson, Linsi Goodin, Medha Prasanna, Noor Khalil, Onyinye Ijeh, Paxton Cane and Vittoria Pagella as graduate at-large senators. Junior Athena Atsides-Del Valle and former SA vice presidential candidate and senior Sofia Packer were confirmed as University at-large senators.

Atsides-Del Valle, who transferred to GW last year, said she hopes to serve as a voice for transfer students in the SA. She said the University fails to offer advisers for transfer students, which some of the University’s peer institutions already provide.

“It’s shocking that so many of our peer institutions have an abundance of support for their transfer students, and yet GW is lacking severely in comparison,” Atsides-Del Valle said.

Senators unanimously approved a $21,850 co-sponsorship request from the Program Board to fund its annual Fall Comedy Show Saturday, where Saturday Night Live cast member Mikey Day and Netflix comedy host Michelle Buteau will perform. Sophomore Audrey Cox, the vice chair of GWPB, said the organization’s funding from the University dropped by 80 percent this year, forcing them to rely more on SA funds.

The senate also confirmed 11 students to executive cabinet positions, including secretaries for transportation, academic technology and sustainability, making it the largest cabinet in SA history, according to Catherine Morris, Hill’s chief of staff.

The next senate meeting will be held Sept. 13 at 8:30 p.m. on the Mount Vernon Campus.

This post has been updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly spelled Atsides-Del Valle on one reference. It is now corrected. We regret this error.

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