Every woman on campus has had it happen: that special time comes a little early and you need a certain something to stop the imminent flood.
Never fear, Aunt Flo is here – but she’s a little swamped and needs some help.
Aunt Flo and the Plug Patrol is a student-run group that has been restocking the tampon and maxi-pad machines around campus for the last year. The group’s founder recently left, making the Plug Patrol an understaffed one-woman show.
Trisha Wallis, a student who worked at the Women’s Center, decided to take on the role of Aunt Flo last year after the vendors responsible for refilling the machines retired, leaving empty dispensers and dismayed campus menstruaters in their wake.
The original Plug Patrol consisted of Wallis and Rebecca Chapman, assistant director of the Resource Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity, who was the Women’s Center librarian when she joined Wallis. They had hoped to recruit more volunteers, but have not yet had any success. Wallis recently graduated and moved away, leaving Chapman in charge as the only remaining plugger.
With only one person taking the responsibility of stocking the many machines on campus, bathroom dispensers often remain barren for extensive periods of time.
“I try to stock two major buildings a week,” Chapman said. “There are over 200 bathrooms on campus, and by the time I get to the dispensers they are always empty.”
Chapman is again working to recruit new members to the Plug Patrol to help increase tampon and pad distribution, making it less likely the dispenser will be empty the next time it is needed.
“[The dispensers] are important if you start [menstruating] and don’t have anything and need one really bad,” freshman biology major Jennifer Aidoo said.
Aunt Flo and the Plug Patrol buys tampons and pads for the dispensers wholesale and distribute them for 25 to 50 cents each, earning a profit of about $100 a month. Eventually, the money will be used to fund student groups, Chapman said.
“Hopefully next quarter we will draw up bylaws so that student groups can apply [for funding],” she said.
One of the key time-taxing elements of the dispenser-filling process and the reason why some dispensers charge more than others is that there are several different types of dispensers on campus. Currently, Aunt Flo uses about 50 keys to open the various dispensers around campus, and the machines are old and prone to jamming up, Chapman said. Ultimately, the group would like to work with the university to have uniform dispensers installed throughout campus.
“We’re trying to get facilities management to replace the machines, but they are kind of expensive,” she said.
If you are interested in joining Aunt Flo and the Plug Patrol, please contact Rebecca Chapman at .