Menstruating is expensive.
A box of pads or tampons alone can be seven to 10 dollars per month, and that’s before you factor in the cost of pain relievers such as Midol or Tylenol for cramp relief. For low-income college students already struggling with financial burdens, period expenses are a financial burden at best. At worst, they’re sacrificed for more immediate needs such as paying for rent or putting food on the table.
Our campus community shouldn’t have to choose between eating dinner or buying a box of tampons. To prioritize its students, the University of Texas must take initiative in providing menstrual products free of charge on campus.
While three complimentary condoms are available per student each day at the University Health Services building on campus, there is no such policy that offers menstrual products free of charge. Seems unfair, right? And it only gets worse when you consider the fact that tampons are cheaper than condoms. A box of 36 condoms at CVS costs nearly $27, while a box of 36 tampons at the same store is only $9.
The idea of universities providing free menstrual products is nowhere near new. In fact, it’s already been implemented successfully on numerous campuses throughout the United States, including UCLA, Columbia University, and Brown University.
While UT students have been calling on its administration to provide complimentary menstrual products for years, no real progress has been made in setting the project in motion. There are pad and tampon dispensers in women’s bathrooms across campus, but many of them only accept quarters and are not consistently restocked. Furthermore, aside being unreliable in the event of a period emergency, these dispensers are inaccessible across campus for students who are in the midst of a gender transition.
UT prioritizes ensuring that condoms are available free of charge across campus, even inviting its dorm residents to order a free pack of five condoms and lubricant to be delivered weekly. However, it fails to do the same with pads and tampons.
“Condom distribution is part of our public health mission to reduce STIs and pregnancy,” says Jamie Shutter, executive director of University Health Services. “We do not have plans for providing free tampons or pads, as there’s not a medical need for those products.”
But menstruation should be considered a medical need. And unlike consensual sex, it’s not a choice. If campus administration can afford to give students three free condoms a day, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be able to do the same with pads and tampons.
Over half of UT’s student body has a menstrual cycle throughout the year. This fall, administration must prioritize them by making pads and tampons available free of charge. Point blank, period.
Braaten is an international relations and global studies senior from Conroe. She is a senior columnist.