By Aidan Lewis
This will not be news to the women of our school: Our campus restrooms lack pads and tampons. These essential products are not available for free, nor can they be purchased from a coin operated dispenser in any public restroom on campus. In recent years, school leaders have committed to building diversity and inclusion in our community. Still, this crucial oversight threatens to dampen our progress in many areas, including the balancing of our unbalanced gender ratio. Building a more inclusive school takes significant time and effort and our school should include free access to menstrual products as part of this effort.
To this end, I am excited to share some of the Undergraduate Student Government’s actions in this important area. It started when we heard from students that the lack of pad and tampon access was frustrating, and was leading to negative educational and emotional effects. Indeed, our research confirms the benefits of access. Surveys show that 86% of American women have started their period unexpectedly in public without the supplies they need. In our school community this looks like missed class time and added stress. Surveys also show that 79% of American women had improvised pads and tampons out of toilet paper or something else, which can be uncomfortable, ineffective, and even lead to infection.
Following research, USG conducted outreach to various stakeholder student organizations on campus including SWE, RHA, OSTEM, and Vanguard Scholars, who we learned had helped launch a successful pilot program in three campus restrooms last fall. Organizations shared their thoughts on what a free program should look like and provided overwhelmingly positive feedback in support of the effort. USG concluded our internal efforts last December with the unanimous passage of an official resolution which recognized Vanguard Scholars for their work, affirmed our belief that access to menstrual products is essential, and called on our school to provide reliable and universal access to pads and tampons in campus restrooms.
This semester we have been having productive conversations with school leaders and potential vendors. These discussions are in relatively early stages and nothing has been decided yet, however we are hopeful that an expansive yet cost effective program can be adopted. We are appreciative that school leaders have been receptive to our voice and are excited for the possibility of benefits for those who menstruate in our community. One of the potential vendors we have been in discussion with is Aunt Flow, which provides a line of sustainable and comfortable products and has worked with schools such as Princeton, Vanderbilt, and CU Boulder in the past.
Thanks for your interest in USG and our efforts! If you have feedback for us including suggestions, comments, or complaints please, use What’s Your Beef, visit our office hours, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit a USG Senate meeting. Together, we can Engineer Change.
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