Last Thursday morning I realized I was afflicted with a problem routinely faced by women the world over. Being a commuter, I was far from home and would have to make do with the resources available on campus. I was confident though. Cocky, even. I had a solid half hour before my next class and, against all odds, I even had the quarter I needed to complete my transaction.

Darting into the restroom on the first floor of Bausch and Lomb, I saw an oasis in the dull silver box mounted on the wall. As I approached it, I noticed the door on the front was slightly ajar. I opened it, and promptly let loose a string of profanities.

The tampon dispenser was empty.

Assuming this was an isolated problem, I went in search of salvation elsewhere. After checking Rush Rhees, Morey, Dewey, Gavett, Hylan, Wilson Commons, Goergen and even the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies, I gave up. Frustrated and out of breath, I slid into my chair seconds before class started. Half an hour of searching and what did I have to show for it?

That question is best left unanswered.

This problem’s root goes deeper than mere negligence. There was clearly a conscious decision made to discontinue tampon dispensers in public restrooms around campus. The few machines that are still around have coin slots that have been deliberately taped over or otherwise disabled. Still more frustrating are the bathrooms that lack even the machines, but retain evidence they had once been there — rusted holes in the wall serve as bitter memorials to the once-thriving dispensers.

When was it decided to cut off the tampon supply, and more importantly, why? I cannot believe that the machines simply did not turn enough of a profit. Charging 25 cents for cotton on a string is comparable to robbery, and in the sellers’ market of tampon machines, one can get away with it easily.

However, even if the dispensers do not make a profit, doesn’t the school have a responsibility to provide for the basic needs of its students? Tampon dispensers are not luxury items. On a campus with nearly 4,500 undergraduates, more than half of whom are female, functional tampon dispensers are a necessity. While resident students have the often inconvenient option of trudging back to their dorm rooms, we commuters are usually left stranded. In a more perfect world, tampons would be as freely available in public restrooms as paper towels.

Failing in that though, at least allow us the opportunity to be gouged in our times of need.

Flaschen can be reached at

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