Nora Moses, Contributing Photographer

After years of student activism urging greater menstrual equity on campus, Yale facilities has begun installing new motion-detecting period product dispensers in addition to the existing turnstile dispensers. Yet, amid this progress, many bathrooms still lack period products — namely those with turnstile dispensers, which the University does not plan to replace.

The new period product dispensers also come after years of student activism and initiatives to increase access to free period products on campus. In 2019, YCC started providing free menstrual products in residential colleges

“Having period products right in spaces everyone has access to will level the playing field and make everything more equitable. It will help to remove barriers from educational opportunities — if someone would have to miss class because they don’t have access to a product — or even professional opportunities — if someone has maybe an interview and needs a tampon,” Maddy Corson ’26, co-president of YaleBleeds said. “These are really important moments in our lives and non-menstruators don’t have to think about or worry about if they’re gonna get their period in the middle of them.”

Facilities purchased 150 period product dispensers to install in restrooms near student classrooms last semester. They have now been installed 58 out of the 150 dispensers in women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms around campus, and 20 more installations are expected over spring break, per Director of Facilities Operations Samuel Olmstead. These new motion-activated dispensers come in addition to preexisting turnstile dispensers that were installed in some buildings, such as the Humanities Quadrangle and the Schwarzman Center. The University does not plan to replace existing dispensers, per Olmstead.

Uneven access 

Yet, amid the ongoing installation of new dispensers, many bathrooms, particularly those with older turnstile dispensers, lack tampons and pads or do not have any dispensers at all.

Out of 18 bathrooms visited by the News, four had the new dispensers installed, 10 had the old dispensers and four had no period products or a dispenser. Out of the four new dispensers, two of them were full and stocked. Out of the 10 bathrooms with old dispensers, only two contained period products.

In the Humanities Quadrangle, eight bathrooms have turnstile dispensers, with six bathrooms unstocked and two stocked. A turnstile dispenser was also found unstocked in a bathroom outside Marsh Hall in the Yale Science Building. 

The Gilmore Music Library’s bathroom has a new dispenser, which is fully stocked and functional as of March 6, but was empty on March 2 in Bass Library, both are new, but only one is filled, while the other dispenser is empty with products left next to the sink.

In one basement bathroom at the Schwarzman Center, there was no dispenser at all, while another had an old, unstocked dispenser. In the Watson Center’s downstairs bathroom, the basement of William L. Harkness Hall and at Leet Oliver Memorial Hall, there was neither a dispenser nor any period products. 

In reference to the empty dispenser in Bass, Olmstead wrote that because the dispensers are touch-activated, the machines sometimes dispense when someone walks by, so people will often put the dispensed product on a nearby shelf or on top of the dispenser. Facilities is looking into whether or not the machine sensitivity can be dialed back to fix this problem.

He added that restrooms are often cleaned and restocked in the morning, so it is possible that the machines were found unstocked by the News because the products had been used or otherwise dispensed. 

“I will be following up with the managers of these buildings to make sure that any remaining issues are resolved promptly,” Olmstead added. 

Student advocacy

In the past month, multiple student groups have advocated with Yale facilities for more consistent stocking of the dispensers.

According to Corson, at a meeting with two leaders from the Local 35 union last month, YaleBleeds leadership learned that Facilities custodial staff had at that time not received information from Facilities administrators to restock the dispensers and discussed how to best manage the additional labor for facilities workers of restocking the dispensers.

“From what we learned in meeting with the union leaders of Local 35 is that facilities custodial staff had not received any information from facilities administrators to restock the dispensers. And if they were to be the folks responsible for restocking the dispensers, the additional labor may lead to possible renegotiations, conversations about labor contract,” she said. “What we talked about during the meeting is what we can do to support custodial staff and help to find a solution where we can have accessible period products, while also not adding a burden of labor to the already very hardworking, busy custodial staff on campus.”

Corson added that YaleBleeds leadership has struggled with hearing back from Facilities administrators, but is planning to meet with them, and separately union leaders who work in Facilities, after spring break.

Additionally, YCC Senators Emily Hettinger 26, Mimi Papathanasopoulos ’26 and Orah Massihesraelian ’25 proposed an open letter this past week, calling on Yale facilities to stock the period product dispensers. In the letter, the authors urged Yale “to finish the important menstrual equity work it started with its installation of dispensers, and actually fill them.”

Olmstead wrote to the News that they have had “occasional miscommunications and setbacks” keeping the dispensers stocked, but facilities administrators are now “confident those have been worked out, and that our custodians are now stocking the dispensers regularly.” 

Olmstead also said that he has had “positive conversations” with Local 35 on this initiative. 

“We all agree on the importance of free period product dispensing in ensuring a welcoming environment for our campus community. Our custodians have a critical role to play, and I have full confidence in their ability and willingness to make this initiative a success,” he said. 

Local 35 leadership did not immediately respond to the News’ request for comment.

The Graduate and Professional Student Senate also launched an initiative during the 2018-19 school year, when students began stocking products in restrooms near graduate and professional student spaces. The senate provides the funding for the products.

“We stock some bathrooms through graduate and professional volunteers, who are primarily putting supplies in the bathrooms closest to their places of work (e.g., a mechanical engineering student stocking their laboratory, or a drama student stocking their theater),” GPSS Advocacy Chair Adora Svitak GRD ’27 wrote to the News.

Per Svitak, this senate initiative does not overlap in terms of location with undergraduate-led initiatives, such as the new period product dispensers.

In 2023, the YCC was also able to receive approval to move the location of menstrual products in residential colleges from laundry rooms to dining hall bathrooms “as the location of the stockpile in laundry rooms often posed barriers to menstruating students,” YCC President Julian Suh-Toma ’25 wrote to the News.

Last semester, YaleBleeds also released a petition and hosted a Period Day of Action event. They also released a petition, which received 487 signatures, calling on the University to make menstrual products more accessible on campus. 

Karley Yung ’25, co-treasurer of YaleBleeds, emphasized the difficulty students face when they cannot access period products.

“While periods can be predictable for a lot of people, that can also not be the case. Having a period and not expecting it and not having products in the bathrooms is a really difficult situation to be in,” Yung said. “It’s an arduous experience that probably every menstruator has experienced at some point in their life. Wanting to relieve this burden is why we advocated for the dispensers in the first place.”

Yung added that although the installation of the dispensers “isn’t perfect,” it is “a step in the right direction.” 

Crishan Fernando GRD ’25, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, who helped to start the GPSS period product access project in 2019, said that he is also motivated by the unfairness in not supplying free period products.

“From my perspective as someone who doesn’t menstruate, it’s like what if the university just didn’t provide toilet paper, and all of a sudden all of us had to bring our own toilet paper,” Fernando said. “That’s a huge burden. It’s unfair, that we’re sort of punishing people who menstruate for just having to menstruate.”

YaleBleeds — formerly known as PERIOD@Yale — was formed in 2018.