Offer free menstrual products in residence halls

Lucero Ponce, Columnist

Imagine a student just got out of class and is walking back to their dorm. They suddenly realize they have started their period and begin to hurry. When they arrive at a residence hall’s public restroom, they open their backpack, hopeful to have a leftover pad or tampon from last month. It’s empty. What do they do now?

Many universities across the country are beginning to offer free menstrual products across campus that students can take when needed. University Housing and Dining should follow suit and offer free menstrual products at all residence hall front desks and bathrooms at UT.

Although menstrual products are a necessity, many individuals are unable to access them for a variety of reasons, such as forgetting to bring supplies, having an irregular period or simply not being able to afford them. They resort to improvising with toilet paper or ration sanitary products by using them for extended amounts of time, which can lead to urinary tract infections. By having menstrual products readily available in residence hall restrooms, students will have access to resources they need without worrying.

“Sometimes people forget they need to buy (menstrual products) at the store or don’t have that type of money to afford it. I feel like if (UHD) would offer that, it would make it less stressful,” mechanical engineering freshman Yatziri Lopez said. “It’s the most basic thing they could do. (People who menstruate) shouldn’t struggle that much to get the resources they need for something they cannot prevent.”

Kinsolving Residence Hall, through a partnership with Orange Jackets, currently offers free menstrual products at the front desk. This is a good start, but these resources should be readily available to all residents, not just those in Kinsolving. 

“Student Government was working on a campuswide initiative to offer free (menstrual) products prior to COVID-19. It didn’t reach out to us at that time, but the University Residence Hall Association had representation at that committee,” said Tiana Lindberg, assistant director of Residence Life. “Student Government, since COVID-19, hasn’t restarted that initiative, that we’re aware of. We would be interested in engaging with our student leaders and residents on future options to meet their needs. … Typically they’re the ones that start initiatives. We are consistently adapting to the diverse needs and desires of our residents.”

It’s unacceptable for UT to rely on students to start these initiatives, especially since they are clearly aware of the problem. Lindberg said UHD is interested in partnering with student organizations and outside entities to help with supply and cost, so they should start implementing this project themselves instead of waiting for students to bring up the issue again. It’s disappointing that UT needs student organizations to advocate for and help pay for basic necessities, especially when UT has the second-largest endowment in the nation.

University Housing and Dining should provide both pads and tampons of varying sizes at residence halls that all students can take, no questions asked. They must check on the stock daily to ensure the menstrual products are readily available at any time.

Accessibility to free menstrual products will always be an important issue in the lives of students. This has been a conversation before at UT, and it will continue to be one until resources are made accessible to students. 

Ponce is a journalism freshman from Laredo, Texas.