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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Editorial: Tufts should increase access to free menstrual products

On this year's International Women’s Day, the Tufts chapter of Strong Women, Strong Girls and Brandless, an online grocery store retailer, gave out free tampons and panty liners in the lobby of Dewick. The event was part of a national campaign, taking place from Tulane to UC Berkeley. After the events at Tufts and elsewhere, leftover products were donated to women's shelters, a huge help considering the significant price tag on such products.

In light of this event, it is important to examine access to menstrual products on Tufts’ campus. Currently, thanks to a 2016 TCU Senate initiative, there are pads and tampons for emergency usage in a handful of on-campus bathrooms. Unfortunately, there seems to be an overall shortage of such items in facilities across campus despite the enormous benefits of greater access to menstrual products for those who need them.

Perhaps this issue may not pertain to residence halls because students typically have such items in their rooms, but it might be a topic to take under advisement with the renovations of Houston Hall and Miller Hall.

While budgetary concerns may inhibit the expansion of the program into residence halls, in high-traffic public areas like academic buildings and the library, it would be extremely useful to students to have these products available in times of emergency.

Studies have shown that a person who gets their period typically spends over $2,000 on pads and tampons alone over their lifetime. On a college budget, these items add up quickly. While these costs have fallen on Women's Centers at other colleges, the Tufts administration should ease that financial burden and treat these products like the essentials that they are. Having the university get behind this movement would also be an important step toward the destigmatization of menstruation. Menstruation is not just a women's issue, nor is it a shameful one.

Tufts is lagging in the collegiate movement that has swept the country. In 2016, Emory University’s College Council and Campus Services launched a trial program to provide tampons free of cost in several women's bathrooms across their campus. During an initial six-month trial period, organizers collected data on the use of the menstrual products to better understand the costs of feasibility of the program. Now in its fourth semester, the program is expanding to include more locations on campus. Although in some ways Emory's program is not entirely inclusive, this detailed study proves that Emory is taking the issue seriously in order to ensure the initiative's continued existence.

Swarthmore College, too, has taken initiative with their program “Free Pads for Undergrads,” which includes providing gender-neutral bathrooms with menstrual supplies. Cornell has done the same and is working to include men's bathrooms in their efforts. The greatest success has been Brown's entirely student-led initiative, which provides free pads and tampons to women's, men's and gender-neutral bathrooms all across campus. Students and the administration should work together toward encompassing all genders into this initiative, formally recognizing that the varied population that gets their period is not limited to those using the women's room. 

Across the country, there has been public discourse about the tampon tax and the legislation required to abolish it. Massachusetts has broken from the vast majority of states that tax tampons as a luxury item because the state considers them medical products. Tufts should follow the state's lead in making menstrual care accessible to all. After all, having a period is not optional, and menstrual products are not a luxury — they are a necessity.