Those using the women’s bathrooms this school year will see brand-new sanitary dispensers, complete with trash bins in the stalls.
New students may brush them off, but for returning students, the machines are a commodity that has only been made available this year. Elissa Rojas, a senator for the class of 2020, was the one who made it happen.
“I’m just happy that this is something to be able to advocate for and that it’s been coming to fruition and just helping the students to have an easier time,” she said in a phone interview.
When Rojas was elected to the Saint Peter’s Student Senate in 2017, it seemed like a no-brainer about what issue she wanted to work towards.
The aging pad and tampon dispensers in the bathrooms were often broken or devoid of product altogether. And when she did bring items of her own, there was no garbage pail in the stall to dispose of the trash.
“It was frustrating to just grab a tampon or pad,” she said.
Receiving support from her fellow senators and then-student body president Ryan Campen, Rojas leapt into action.
Her inspiration to move forward came from Skype calls -- facilitated by Campen -- with students at different universities who also worked with administration to get the products in their schools, some even for free. The students gave insight on the funding, the different types of products and how they brought it up to administration.
“It was just really, really nice to be able to talk to another school who had the same issue,” said Rojas.
From there on, Rojas rallied other senators to join her. She began to research different types of products to determine which would be the most cost-effective, checking every bathroom to see the state of the machines and bins and attending Presidential Open Forums, where she addressed the issues in front of university administrators.
Administration members would also attend meetings, which is how Rojas got the opportunity to meet with former Vice President of Student Life and Development Anthony Skevakis and Milos Topic, the Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Information, Technology and Operations.
Through countless meetings and plenty of back-and-forth between administrators, new sanitary machines installed in the bathrooms late last semester.
In an interview with Skevakis before his departure, he explained there were many things that needed to be taken into account when it came to installing the new machinery.
“Anything that you do that’s related to construction takes time. You need to go in, take a look at it, diagnose what the problem is, look at the scope of it,” said Skevakis. “You know, we’ve got issues where you go to repair something and you find out it’s much more of a project, or you repair it, and no one really used it enough to need that repair.”
Skevakis also commended Director of Campus Services and Facilities Anna DePaula and her team for their work on pinpointing the problem and their commitment to finding a result that was best for everyone.
“I think Anna and her team did a really good job of identifying where the issue was -- remember it changed from last year to this year -- and then finding a solution we can not only put up that’s reasonable, but also maintain,” said Skevakis.
Rojas, a senior, is still working with the senate to “figure out what changes can be made.”
“It obviously took a little while, but the machines are finally put up,” she said. “They’ve all been pretty supportive about it -- yeah it took awhile but every time I brought it up they’ve been really helpful.”