Student Senate votes to do away with graduation tickets, talks gender inequality

Senate seeks to remove graduation tickets for spring commencement. Photo courtesy: Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat.

As the state of Florida continues to return to a state of normalcy two years after the first COVID-19 outbreak, the Florida A&M University Student Senate passed a bill Monday to remove the ticket requirement for spring 2022 graduates.

The bill, SR22SP-005, proposed by fourth-year student senator Zion Lampley, initially sought to vaguely increase the number of tickets granted to spring 2022 graduates from the eight tickets allowed to fall graduates.

The current number, Lampley explained, simply is not enough for most graduates’ families to take part in the joyous occasion and is even more restricting to graduates with large immediate families.

“Eight tickets isn’t even enough for all of my siblings [to attend graduation],” Lampley said to fellow senators.

The bill highlighted the ease of COVID restrictions during FAMU’s 2021 homecoming events, with less – or poorly enforced – COVID restrictions during the homecoming game, homecoming concert, and the National Panhellenic Council’s Step Show, hinting towards a less worried university concern.

As senators discussed the lack of COVID guidelines during this time, student leaders began the discussion of considering removing the ticket requirement altogether and returning to a pre-COVID commencement ceremony.

“There shouldn’t be a limit on tickets. We can’t pick and choose what we’ll use COVID for and what we won’t,” senator Joshua Brown said in discussion of the bill.

Though the bill was revised and passed by senators to remove the ticket requirement for spring commencement, it still requires a signature from the Student Government Association president before the request can be granted.

Freshman psychology student Kimora Williams also presented an initiative, “The Period Project,” to the Senate floor that will make feminine hygiene products available, for free, in bathrooms for all students on campus.

Williams, the chief executive officer of the community program Hand and Hand Empowerment that is also taking part in the project, pointed out several issues with the current accessibility of these hygiene products on campus.

One issue, Williams says, maybe poor advertising resulting in many students being unaware of where to obtain free products offered for free in health services and where they can purchase them, being sold in places like the campus bookstore and the store in The Hub.

Another problem is not having the products offered in bathrooms across campus, resulting in a gender inequality issue.

Currently, residence halls receive free condoms for a “voluntary [action] and it’s not even required to wear a condom,” but women are denied “a basic necessity” on campus and must travel far distances to obtain them or risk paying higher prices to purchase them on campus.

“Menstrual equity is a basic gender equity issue… We get provided all these things [tissue, hand sanitizer, soap, etc.], but over half the student body is denied this basic daily necessity,” Williams said.

According to university demographics, 65% of FAMU’s population is women.

Following a study of 99 women on campus Williams conducted with her group, 65% of women had unpredicted cycles and only 35% were properly prepared for these cycles. About 15% of women ended up missing work or class because of menstrual-related issues.

“It’s kind of embarrassing to walk around asking for a daily necessity,” Williams said.

The study also showed when unplanned cycles hit; many women were forced to create makeshift products, or to go without, which is unsanitary and could result in a slew of severe health conditions.

Under William’s project, free feminine hygiene products will be made available to all students in bathrooms across campus. William plans to host a donation drive with all campus organizations to start a pilot program for the initiative this semester. Items collected during the drive would be dispersed to several women’s restrooms across campus during women’s appreciation week.

The project’s goal would begin with providing feminine hygiene products in all women’s restrooms, slowly moving to gender-neutral restrooms and eventually men’s bathrooms.

“All women don’t menstruate, and all menstruators aren’t women,” said Williams.

William’s is hoping to primarily provide products from brands like Honeypot and Always, as the quality of the products was a vital detail to the women she surveyed.