On Tuesday, Student Government (SG) passed a resolution calling on the University to provide free menstrual hygiene products. We are proud that College Council representative Sat Gupta and the rest of Student Government has taken a stand on an issue that is vital to so many students. In addition to calling on the University, SG allocated $70 from its budget to provide 250 tampons and 230 pads in Reynolds Club bathrooms. While we encourage SG to continue its investigation and trial program in providing menstrual products indefinitely, this cannot be a permanent solution. The administration should take it upon itself to provide free sanitary products in all bathrooms. Hygiene products should be free for all students, and supporting the health of nearly half the campus population is surely something we can and should all get behind.
Many universities, including our own, distribute condoms as a matter of public health—if condoms are free, the argument goes, students will be more likely to use them, which will prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. While we wholeheartedly support this endeavor, the reality is that for those that menstruate on campus, using products like pads or tampons is not a decision, and comes with a hefty price tag. Certainly public health can be further supported by devoting attention to the most basic necessities. If the University can provide free soap and toilet paper in bathrooms, then it should also provide tampons and pads, two products also essential for sanitary health. These products are not a luxury, but a necessity, and deserve to be free for all students to access.
As advocacy group Free the Tampons notes, 86 percent of people with uteruses have started their cycle without having the supplies they need; providing hygiene products in campus bathrooms would mitigate this problem. But, further, many lower-income students on campus simply can’t afford the high cost associated with having a period. According to a Huffington Post article, a menstruating person will spend approximately $1,773.33 in their lifetime on tampons alone. Lower-income students should not have to worry about budgeting for a product that should be freely accessible. On the University’s end, this should be a small price to pay to keep students healthy. A student’s participation in school should never be impeded by a lack of access to a basic health necessity.
NPR called 2015 “the year of the period.” Let’s make 2017 “the year of the period” at the University of Chicago. Like NPR, we also aren’t talking about punctuation.
—The Maroon Editorial Board