Free tampons and pads will be available in restrooms around campus, pending the success of a joint initiative between the Students’ Association (SA) Government Student Life Committee and the Student Health Advisory Committee (URSHAC).
The idea began last year when three students proposed the distribution of tampons and pads for the 5K Challenge. After the idea lost to a different proposal, a student posted a petition on the SA IMPACT website restating the proposal. Posted six months ago, the petition has garnered 274 signatures, more than the 250 required for review by SA Senate.
When senior and URSHAC Chair Tristan Ford heard about the petition, he reached out to SA Government. He, along with juniors Rebecca Block and Zaira Lujan, made the 5K Challenge proposal.
“Males have all their needs taken care of, so why not women?” Ford said, citing the reasoning behind the initial proposal. “It was only a year or two ago […] when New York State was taxing tampons as luxury items. I think we can go beyond selling them now tax-free to making them actually free, as they should be.”
Ford also cited confirmation from Facilities and University Health Services (UHS) last year that the plan could be implemented. The only concern was from where the money would come.
Ford estimates that a pilot program would cost approximately $5,000, but if the program were to be adopted University-wide, the annual cost would be significantly higher.
The goal launch time for the pilot program is spring semester 2017. If it is successful, a more formal proposal will be drafted, which could end up in front of the University’s Board of Trustees, Ford said.
Planning is already underway, according to senior and Executive Director of Student Life Nicholas Contento. Contento noted that the Student Life Committee, headed by sophomore Criswell Lavery, is already drafting a survey to gather public opinion on the initiative.
Contento was optimistic about the initiative.
“We are in contact with Brown University’s SA Government and are trying to figure out ‘What did they do, and how did they do it?’” Contento said. “Brown has a lot of demographic similarities to [UR], and we’re hoping that they will be able to help us work through the initiative.”
Brown University’s Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) started its own initiative to provide free tampons and pads in bathrooms around its campus. It is one of the first institutions in the U.S. to do so.
Contento said that they were looking to learn from UCS to make the University’s program run smoothly. He specifically cited how Brown found that tampon and pad dispensers were not cost effective, primarily due to their tendency to break easily. Baskets were found to be a more efficient method of distribution.
Contento predicts that within the next few weeks, University administrators will become involved in the initiative. He also indicated that an effort was being made to gain endorsements from Facilities and UHS, in addition to select academic departments, such as the public health–related programs and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program.
“I think a service like this will make the lives of students a lot better,” Contento said. “They don’t need to worry about, if they need a tampon or pad, that they have to have them with them and use them in a public setting and have the extra pressure to worry about.”
“We’re doing it because we recognize that tampons and pads aren’t supposed to be items of luxury,” Ford said. “They’re necessary, the same as toilet paper and soap and everything else in the bathrooms, and we should treat them the same way.”
A non-profit called Free the Tampons Foundation reported that 86 percent of women “have reported starting their period unexpectedly public without the supplies they need,” according to a 2013 survey.
Ford and Contento have noted that organizations such as College Feminists and Phi Sigma Sigma have expressed interest in working on the initiative. They encourage students and organizations interested in getting involved to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.