By Giulia Fiaoni
Sanitary napkin dispensers across campus are empty, and Ryerson University has no plans to restart the program that restocked them.
While there has never been a program to dispense products in every washroom at Ryerson, Cannon Hygiene, a hygiene services company, previously stocked 40 coin-operated dispensers in high-traffic washrooms on campus, according to Facilities Management and Development (FMD).
The program was later discontinued because of theft, vandalism and concerns for the safety of contractors removing money from the machines, FMD said.
The Eye visited 102 washrooms in 14 buildings on campus. Seventy-one washrooms had no dispenser and 31 had an empty one still advertising prices ranging from 10 cents to a dollar. There were no signs on the machines indicating they were empty.
Of the 16 all-gender washrooms on campus, only one had a dispenser and it was also empty.
Ryerson doesn’t have a record of when the program was terminated, said a university spokesperson.
FMD said Citron Hygiene, which acquired Cannon in 2016, currently operates six dispensers in the Student Campus Centre (SCC), which they said are serviced every two weeks.
The Eye found four dispensers in the building, including one in the Ram in the Rye.
All four of the dispensers are empty and three of them are labelled “free.”
Citron Hygiene didn’t respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
The Equity Service Centre offers safe sex and menstrual hygiene products in the public lounge on the second floor of the SCC.
Sexual Assault Survivors Support Line (SASSL) maintains the hygiene products daily, but have been low on supplies, said Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) equity and campaigns organizer Ruben Perez.
Hirra Farooqi, the equity and social justice commissioner at the RSU, is leading a sanitary and menstruation campaign and plans to raise awareness about the necessity of accessible sanitary products. She hopes to have free products available in all campus buildings by the end of the school year.
According to the 2016-17 Ryerson statistics, 55 per cent of undergraduate students are female, while 45 per cent are male. Data for students who identify as gender non-conforming or non-binary was not available on Ryerson’s website.
This is the last thing that should be on an already-stressed-out student’s mind
Sammy Martin*, a first-year social work student who identifies as a trans-masculine person, said making menstrual hygiene products free and accessible is one thing, but the placement of these products is imperative.
“It’s also a matter of safety because trans people are constantly in fear while in public washrooms, so providing [menstrual hygiene products] in all washrooms adds that little bit of safety against physical and verbal violence,” said Martin. “If you’re presenting as one way, but doing something that contradicts that, it can potentially cause a dangerous situation.”
Martin said placing the products behind the individual stalls of male and female washrooms would help avoid conflict and discomfort.
Administration at Centennial College recently started a program that provides free menstrual products in 70 different female and gender neutral washrooms across campus.
Shannon Brooks, who helped create the program, said she hopes it will gain traction in other schools and that providing these products for free will be considered as basic as providing toilet paper.
The funding for the program is “a drop in the bucket with respect to the overall cleaning costs and supply costs of a college or university,” said Brooks, who is also associate vice-president of corporate services at the college.
“The amount of benefit it provides to the students is just second to none.”
At Centennial, the average monthly cost to supply the campus with eight cases of tampons and eight cases of napkins is $1035.72 plus HST, according to Tyrone Gangoo, the plant services manager at the college. One casing includes 200 of each and costs under $62.
Sefi Sloman, a fourth-year RTA student, said she tried accessing sanitary products through the coin-operated dispensers on campus.
However, she has had her money taken from her with no products in return.
“I have no idea where I can even go to get free products if these bathrooms are out of them, which is ridiculous,” Sloman said. “This is the last thing that should be on an already-stressed-out student’s mind.”
“Is their fear that students are going to stockpile them if they’re provided free? That hasn’t been our experience,” said Brooks. “Once they’re always free, no one is going to steal a bunch of tampons. They’re always there so they’ll take them when they need them.”
With files from Sherina Harris.
*A previous version of this article included this source’s real name but has since been changed to an alias to protect their identity.