A student group at Grand Rapids Community College was asked to remove an informational table containing maxi pads and tampons from the the fourth floor of the Main Building after administrators labeled it a fire hazard.
The table, sponsored by the student group Women’s Issues Now (WIN), was removed from the hallway by a WIN member Thursday at the request of GRCC administrators. It was intended to give GRCC students open access to feminine hygiene products as well as diapers, condoms, band-aids and informational brochures on an array of topics. The products were acquired with money from the group’s fundraising efforts on campus and through donations from students and staff.
According to Victoria Janowiak, executive director of operational planning at GRCC, WIN was asked to move the table and provided a suggestion as to where it could be placed.
“They were asked (that the table) be moved out of the way and relocated,” she said. “They were informed it was a fire hazard, and it was suggested it be moved to their adviser’s office.”
WIN first placed the table containing free products in October 2017 in response to the removal of the feminine hygiene dispensers from all bathrooms across campus during a building remodel in the spring of 2011.
“There were dispensers in mostly all of the buildings,” said Chantal Garcia, WIN secretary. “We did some research and asked building managers and such and (they) said that (the feminine hygiene dispensers) were taken out because they were vandalized and broken into. So instead of finding a resolution to that while still providing those items, they just took it out altogether.”
Garcia explained WIN’s call to action for the students at GRCC after the removal.
“Our goal as a club was to provide those resources to students because we know that they’re needed and they took it out, so we felt that we needed to fill that void,” she said.
WIN’s struggle to find a home for the resources the club is aiming to provide began during the fall of 2017 when their Gender Equity Center in room 412 of the Main Building was shut down. According to club members, the room was closed because administrators had concerns about the supplies preventing other parties from periodically using the room.
The Collegiate first reported about the Gender Equity Center at GRCC when it opened in April 2017 and then again in November 2017 when the center was at risk of closure due to lack of support from administrators.
The table was originally placed in front of the door to room 412, the Gender Equity Center, but was later moved down the hall in between the unisex bathrooms. Eventually, the table would find its way back to the front of room 412 every morning where it blocked the entry to the room. WIN members surmise that the night cleaning staff may have been moving the table back to the spot they thought it belonged.
“Somebody mentioned that it was a fire hazard to have the table where it is,” Garcia said. “First… it was a bother when it was moved to the front of the door, which that was the original location, but we moved it to the unisex bathroom so that it wouldn’t bother… anymore. But I think somebody, maybe facilities or something, would move it back to where it was, so I don’t know who was moving it. But somebody was. The location that we chose to have it in was between the two unisex bathrooms against the wall out of everybody’s way and then I guess that turned into a fire hazard, so we had to move it.”
Garcia said administrators suggested that the WIN supplies be relocated.
“I guess it was suggested to move the items to Student Life or to a food pantry or something like that,” she said, “but right now it’s currently in the (adviser’s) office.”
Why the table, which is now parked in 321 Main, was being sited as a fire hazard is still unclear to WIN, however.
“They didn’t give us any details on why it was a fire hazard,” Garcia said. “I don’t know if it’s because it’s a moveable table, but it has brakes on it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a little outside the wall. It’s just taking up a little space in the hallway, and I don’t know if it’s because of the items. They didn’t give us any details about that. They just said it’s a fire hazard.”
The table is about the size of an individual classroom desk with a table top measuring about 29 inches long, 18 inches wide and 29 inches high.
The Collegiate reached out to Director of Student Life and Conduct Lina Blair for comment about why the table is a fire hazard, but did not receive an immediate response.
There are a number of hallways in GRCC which have tables, chairs and other items obstructing full access to the hallways. It is yet unclear why the feminine hygiene table was labeled a fire hazard and not the other tables across campus.
Garcia is hopeful that GRCC’s administration will aid in resolving the issue for WIN and for the students at GRCC.
“We spoke with Dr. Pink a little bit ago, so I’m pretty confident that that’ll give us a little bit of progress or will move us up a little,” Garcia said. “Eventually, our ultimate goal is to have the college provide those resources. I mean, we have been providing them through mostly donations from faculty and people who support us, and we purchased some items with fundraised funds to provide items. So hopefully we won’t have to do that anymore.
“Our adviser, Gretchen (Robinson), sent an email to him I think two weeks ago,” Garcia said. “We’re just waiting on a response. I think he’s working on it, so I’m pretty sure we’re going to make some progress with that.”
Robinson, WIN Adviser and Educational Support Professional, said she is confident the table issue will be resolved with Pink’s help.
“He’s told me he would address the issue, and I’m confident that he will,” Robinson said.
This evening Pink responded to an email from The Collegiate regarding the WIN table stating he was not aware it had been removed.
“Let me look into this and we’ll get back to you,” the email read.
Former WIN president, Tessa Dearth, wants the issue to be resolved for the students at GRCC who will continue their education at the school in the fall.
“It’s kind of like a bummer… there are a bunch of other (members) that are leaving. There’s only, I think, two members from the club that are staying, and they still want to push for (a solution) because it’s an important thing to have at this school,” Dearth said. “It’s just been very difficult because I feel there’s not much support… and basically it just feels like we’re not really supported as much as we would’ve liked to have been.”
The Collegiate News Editor Arielle Jackson contributed to this story.
Update: This story was updated at 8:55 p.m. to include an email comment from GRCC President Bill Pink.