Residents in certain first-year dorms now have access to free period products on behalf of an initiative launched by Student Council. The temporary program — which requires Resident Advisors to opt-in — is meant to fulfill a need demonstrated by University students for period products in residence buildings.
To fund the initiative — which began at the beginning of the semester — Student Council budgeted $900 from the Student Activities Fee for this semester. Every University student pays a $50 Student Activities Fee as a part of their tuition. The $900 allotted to the period product initiative makes up about 0.5 percent of the Student Council budget that is funded by the Student Activity Fee.
Holly Sims, student council chief of cabinet, co-chair of Housing and Residence Life and Fourth-year Batten student, said that the goal of the program is to eventually make period products free or low cost to all students who need them.
“It’s important because there’s always been a pink tax on or additional costs that meant that people with vaginas pay because of things like period products that other people don’t have to spend money on,” Sims said.
Sloane Daly, co-director of the safety and wellness agency and second-year College student, advocates on behalf of students to the University to provide access to health related resources such as these period products and free Sexually Transmitted Infection testing.
“The burden of providing for the cost of basic needs like menstrual products should not fall on students,” Daly said. “The cost of higher education is already so high that we want to make sure that students’ basic needs are actually being met, and this initiative is one of the ways that we’re helping them to do that.”
Student Council first undertook an initiative to have free period products available in on-Grounds restrooms. They began with a pilot program in a select few restrooms, then presented the data on product usage to the University’s facility management to argue that the program deserved to be expanded. Funding from the University continued the following year, and today there are free period products in every academic building on Grounds. Student Council hopes to eventually have the University fund the period product program as well.
Concerns about access to period products in residential dorms first arose when students quarantined in dorms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fourth-year Batten student Kyndall Walker, who is also a resident advisor, said period product accessibility is one stressor for residents who are transitioning to dorm life.
“We knew that in academic buildings, [period products] were offered for free through Student Council, but they weren't in dorms, which felt really strange,” Walker said.
After initially contacting HRL in September about the project and getting rejected, Walker teamed up with Student Council to launch the initiative.
“It's important that we provide [period products] not just for the sake of financial accessibility, but also so that we can normalize this and destigmatize it,” Walker said.
Student Council hopes to mirror the expansion of the new program focusing on first-year dorms on the past initiative, which focused on academic buildings.
Currently, the period products are made available in the housing office in Gibbons, where RAs can pick up the products and bring them back to the dorms. Having the RAs distribute the products is a temporary solution, according to Sims — in the upcoming weeks, Senior Residents will be given the products directly. Sims said that eventually the aim is for the University to provide the products in all first-year dorms.
“Ideally, I wouldn’t want to have that burden on our RAs full time, which is why hopefully the University will implement [the initiative] fully themselves in the future,” Sims said.
Evidence suggests students are already taking advantage of the program. Walker said boxes of period products that were put out for free in the main lobby have been emptied as residents utilize the resources.
Daly also said the period product initiative could have an even bigger impact across Grounds in the future.
“We’re hoping to expand the project to get menstrual products or menstrual product dispensers installed in bathrooms in the Student Health and Wellness building,” Daly said.
CORRECTION: This article previously stated that free period products could be found in all first-year dorms. The program actually requires Resident Advisors to opt-in and is consequently not available in all first-year dorms. The article also did not state that the program is temporary in hopes that the University will eventually provide period products in first-year dorms. The article has been updated to reflect both of these changes.