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Housing and Residence Life replaces sanitary pods, some resident assistants and students unaware of plans

Since early April, Housing and Residence Life has been in the process of replacing sanitary product disposal pods in East and West Campus residence halls, leaving many residence halls without proper pod equipment for the last few weeks of the spring semester. Some resident assistants and students say they were unaware of the replacement plans, leading to confusion and inconvenience.

In response to staff and student work orders, the sanitary pods are being replaced with ones from a new vendor to improve service levels, according to Chris Rossi, associate vice president of student affairs for resource administration and planning. The pods will now be serviced biweekly instead of weekly.

The previous vendor started removing old pods the week of April 7, and installations for the new pods began the week of April 23, according to Rossi. All pod installations were completed on East Campus by May 10. Installations for West Campus began on May 11 and are estimated to be completed the week of May 29. All gender-neutral bathrooms on both East and West Campus will also have pods.

Janibell Sanitary Pods
The new sanitary pods are by a company called Janibell. Courtesy of Nadia Bey.

Communication gap between RAs and HRL

While some RAs knew that the pods would be replaced before the old ones were uninstalled, others were unaware.

One RA on East Campus, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said no RAs on their team knew why the old pods were missing until they asked their residence coordinator, who acts as a direct supervisor to RAs.

“Maybe [the pod replacement] was mentioned in a meeting or something, but at least not until after it had already happened and stuff was removed,” the East Campus RA said.

The team of RAs they were a part of decided to communicate with their residence about the sanitary pod replacement, but they said there was no direct instruction from their residence coordinator to do so.

“[RAs] just had to apologize on behalf of HRL to the residents because no one knew what was going on,” the RA said.

The pods are being replaced partly because the previous pod company, WellBeing, was responsible for cleaning out the pods once a month but was not doing so, according to the RA.

Another RA on West Campus, who also requested to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said that their RC had mentioned the pods would be replaced at a RA meeting the week of April 9. Their RC had informed their RAs primarily for “safety reasons” because they wanted their RAs to be aware that WellBeing staff would be in the bathrooms uninstalling the old pods.

However, the RA was not explicitly told by their RC to inform residents about the temporarily missing pods.

The Chronicle reached out to Brandin Howard, associate dean for residence life on East Campus, and Dani Harmston, associate dean for residence life on West Campus, to ask if all RCs were notified about pod replacement, when they were notified and if they were instructed to notify RAs to tell their residents. Howard and Harmston both referred The Chronicle to Rossi, who said that all residential staff were notified the week of April 7, the same week as when the old pods were being removed. 

“All staff knew that residential facilities had been exploring a vendor change for months. Campus offices and deans updated their staff members at weekly meetings in the beginning of April. Exact dates likely varied by group,” Rossi wrote.

Still, the East Campus RA wondered why the pods couldn’t have been replaced later after most students had gone home for the summer.

“Even if that wasn't logistically possible, it was obvious that no thought had been put into where are all these menstruating people going to put their stuff,” they said. “If they knew that they were going to have to remove these canisters, why wouldn’t they have prepared some sort of secondary measure like putting temporary trash cans instead of just leaving it empty?”

Rossi stated that the team charged with installing new units did not immediately start their work because it involves hammering and drilling, which they thought would disturb students during the final weeks of the academic year.

“Once we learned about the gap in pod availability, the Director of Facilities over residence halls (Bernard Smith) asked to start installs ASAP,” he wrote.

This is not the first time that some RAs felt that there was a communication gap between themselves and HRL. In January, some West Campus resident assistants were frustrated at HRL’s decision to move back their end-of-semester leave dates by a week to May 18, saying it was made without sufficient communication and transparency.

Resident experiences with old sanitary pods

Because there were no explicit instructions for RAs to inform their residents about the pod replacement, many residents were left confused as to why the pods were missing or not in use.

Carmen Chavez, a rising senior who was a Keohane Quad resident, knew "literally nothing" about why the sanitary pods had been removed in the gender-neutral bathroom she used.

“[M]y RA said it was possible they were just being cleaned when I asked,” Chavez wrote in a message to The Chronicle.

Esther Cheng, a rising sophomore who was a Pegram resident on East Campus, said that the first-floor women’s bathroom in Pegram used to be a men’s bathroom and never had any sanitary pods the entire year. Cheng’s graduate resident contacted HRL, who told her in November that the pods had been installed — but they never were.

“[My GR] was under the impression that they had been installed the whole time. So she reached back out to HRL, and then they told her that they weren't planning on installing the units,” she said. “I think [it was] from that point forward that they were planning on removing them.” 

Elise Zhang, a rising senior who lived in Edens Quad, stated that the sanitary pods in the gender-neutral bathroom that she used stopped working around the fall semester. People in the bathroom have been putting sanitary products in a little trash bin placed in one of the bathroom’s two stalls.

“It’s just a trash can that’s open and not very sanitary,” she said. “Someone cleans it, obviously, because it’s not always full, but it’s pretty disgusting.”

Her RA also did not communicate anything about the pods' replacement.

Katie Tan profile
Katie Tan | Digital Strategy Director

Katie Tan is a Trinity junior and digital strategy director of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 118. 


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