Following sustained efforts by NUSU President Raff Marioni and Marginalised Genders Officer Charlotte Boulton throughout the 2018-19 academic year to introduce free-of-charge sanitary products for students in need, machines offering a range of tampons and sanitary towels were due to be implemented at eight sites across campus. These include the Business School, Medical School, the Marjorie and Philip Robinson Libraries, and the Armstrong Building, and the machines would be accessible by any student simply by swiping their smartcard.
Despite being proposed and heavily supported by the Students’ Union, the venture would actually be a joint partnership, with the University responsible for financing and maintaining the machines. This, in turn, would lead Newcastle to be the first university in England to offer free sanitary products to all students financed by the University, although these products are already available for free at the Students’ Union. This projects echoes recent developments in Scotland, where many universities have started offering free sanitary products to students.
Unfortunately, however, the machines are still not in place at Newcastle. Sally Ingram, Director of Student Health and Wellbeing, said: “We have been working hard to try to get the machines in place for the start of term but the project has been more complicated than anticipated and has encountered some delays.
“Together with colleagues in estates and the Students’ Union President and Welfare and Equality Officer, we are looking to install the eight machines as soon as possible. The project is in its final stages, with sanitary product options and machine designs being finalised.
“As has always been case, students can continue to access free sanitary products from the Student Advice Centre.”
It is to be noted that the Student Advice Centre is a branch of the Students’ Union and not of the University.
President of the Students’ Union Katie Smyth said: “Obviously it is disappointing they’re not in place yet – ideally the machines would be in place for term start as was initially hoped for. However we’re working hard to ensure they’re installed as soon as possible, so students can rightfully retrieve free products and the university can play its part in tackling the wider issue of period poverty. Thanks to everyone who was involved in the campaign last year, and rest assured this year’s team will ensure that what you campaigned for is followed through.”
Commenting on the news, Charlotte Boulton said: “It’s really disappointing that the machines haven’t been introduced yet, especially after being told that they would be up and running for the start of the academic year. The University needs to take responsibility for letting the launch fall through the cracks as it’s not good enough; we should be celebrating their launch, not wondering where they are. There will be people missing out on the great benefits that free period products will give, so I hope the University gets their act together soon.”