The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) at IUPUI plans to reduce plastic usage and make menstrual products more widely available on campus.
“We’re looking at ways to phase out the use of plastic products on campus, such as plastic silverware,” said USG Director of Initiatives Joshua Bell. Bell listed “straws, lids and cups” as other products the USG hoped to reduce the usage of.
The Environmental Protection Agency has warned that, “Plastics in the aquatic environment are of increasing concern because of their persistence and effect on the environment, wildlife, and human health.”
However, initiatives to ban plastic straws from cities such as Seattle and Santa Monica have been the center of a national controversy. As NPR reported, some people with disabilities and their advocates have noted how straws are sometimes necessary.
Kevin McCracken, the new director of the Adaptive Educational Services at IUPUI, said, “There clearly is a need for some people with physical limitations to use the plastic straws that bend. It makes it easier for them and sometimes people require that. If they’re not available, then that population is going to be negatively impacted.”
Director McCracken stressed that the organization was not making any policy recommendations, but he added, “It is our role to advocate for people with disabilities. I would like to see those straws be made available when folks need them or want them to meet their needs so they have the same opportunity as everyone else.”
USG Vice President Yasmine Kofahi said that she would consult with organizations representing students with disabilities on campus to ensure that reducing plastic usage would not negatively impact them.
“We want to have those products accessible to students if asked. They should have straws provided for them that they need,” Kofahi said.
“It’s plastic reduction, not plastic elimination,” USG Executive Treasurer Kole Loehmer added.
Kofahi stated that in addition to plastic reduction, the student government made increasing the availability of menstrual products a priority this year.
“Our main initiatives are providing menstrual products for campus-wide, and second would be our plastic reduction initiative,” Kofahi said.
Loehmer said that more funding was available for these proposals than last year.
“We almost doubled the amount of money we plan to put in our initiatives fund for this year,” Loehmer said.
Loehmer cautioned that the proposed budget is not finalized until the USG Senate approves of it. However, the director of initiatives Joshua Bell said that he did not anticipate any opposition from the student senators.
The USG Senate passed a resolution last semester that stated, “the Undergraduate Student Government will continue to work towards increasing the availability of period products at IUPUI.”
“Pre-2009, menstrual products were available in the restrooms,” Bell said. “We’re looking to distribute those products again at spaces on campus, much like Paw’s Pantry.”
Paw’s Pantry is a food pantry run by IUPUI students which offers food for those in need. According to Bell, Paw’s Pantry supports the goal of distributing more menstrual products to students.
Studies have found that making menstrual products more widely available make educational environments more inclusive for those who can’t otherwise afford them.
Bell, Loehmer and Kofahi said that they hoped initiatives like these would improve the lives of IUPUI students.