Menstrual hygiene products are now available free of charge in the Union and will soon be provided in the Student Activity Center thanks to Texas Orange Jackets, Women’s Resource Agency of Student Government and the University Unions' financial support of the pilot project. The products are available in womens’ and gender neutral bathrooms at both locations.
The Union will support the project until next fall, when UT administrators will decide if and how the products will be implemented in the future, according to an email Student Body President Colton Becker sent out last Thursday. Mehraz Rahman, student body vice president, said free products were first provided in the Union around Thanksgiving break and have cost the Union $300 for the products and $175 for each dispenser so far.
“(Administrators’ approval) will depend on how many products we did use throughout the year, which we have no idea yet,” said Rahman, a marketing and Plan II senior. “(The Union is) monitoring which bathrooms are the most high usage, how many tampons they find unused on the floor and a lot of other different things to determine the cost usage.”
Rahman said she has done a lot of research about people who can’t afford menstrual products and how this affects people who menstruate. She said she wants to use her position to help those who might not be as lucky as she is.
“As someone who has the privilege to buy these products, I really wanted to make sure I was doing everything within my power to make it easier for people who can’t afford those resources,” Rahman said.
While drafting the legislation, the Women’s Resource Agency co-director Catherine Holley said she got input from several student organizations to be as inclusive as possible.
“This can seem small and insignificant, but it is a part of a larger aim to tackle gender inequality,” said Holley, a Plan II junior. “We don’t choose to menstruate, and I think providing these products to women on campus can reduce stigma.”
Agency co-director Ximena Alvarez said the organization wanted to push for menstrual products in gender neutral bathrooms because women are not the only ones who menstruate, though they faced some backlash with their decision.
“Not everyone that identifies as a woman menstruates, and people that identify as men menstruate as well, so how do we make it easily accessible without compromising their identity and involving them in an outing risk?” said Alvarez, a theatre and dance senior. “Our mission is that whoever needs them can get them. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
The idea of providing free menstrual products on campus has been promoted by the Orange Jackets since they started Project Period a few semesters ago. They hope the project will reduce the stigma surrounding periods and menstrual products for everyone who needs them.
Holley said she hopes the pilot project will push for gender equality and spark a change at UT and other Big 12 schools.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Holley said. “If we can do one thing for UT students so they can have one less thing to worry about, why shouldn’t we? If you can help a student who is already struggling to pay for their food and struggling with mental health … how can we not provide for our students?”