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Student group to petition for free menstrual products in all restrooms

Non-profit activist group PERIOD at Ohio State petitions to eliminate the luxury tax on tampons at the Ohio Union. Credit: Courtesy of PERIOD at Ohio State

PERIOD at Ohio State, a nonprofit activist group, plans to petition Ohio State to provide free menstrual products in all restrooms across campus, including women’s and men’s.

The group — which officially formed Oct. 1 — is a chapter of the national organization that aims to combat period stigma and period poverty. Anusha Singh, a second-year in neuroscience and president of PERIOD at Ohio State, said the national nonprofit PERIOD identified 10 out of nearly 200 chapters around the world that are pushing for policy action on campuses and are working their way up.

Singh said PERIOD thinks it is important to provide menstrual products in all restrooms on campus, because it is not only a woman’s issue.

“We recognize that women are not the only people who menstruate and we strive to be more inclusive and help the LGBTQ community as well,” Singh said. “Ultimately, we hope to get menstrual products into all bathrooms or at least begin stirring that conversation.”

Singh said PERIOD is especially focused on engaging the LGBTQ community at Ohio State given the community surrounding campus.

“We know Columbus has one of the largest LGBTQ communities,” Singh said. “[Columbus] Pride is so huge here, and so eventually we want to get it into all bathrooms, regardless of the female and male gender designation.”

Singh also noted that half of their team is made up of men.

“We also want to emphasize that it’s not just a women’s issue, so you don’t have to be a woman to sign our petition,” Singh said. “There are many men who signed it.”

Undergraduate Student Government launched a tampon accessibility pilot program in January, which is now a fully backed program by Ohio State: More than 90 bathrooms on campus have access to free menstrual products, USG Vice President Shawn Semmler said.

Even so, Bakshin Kaur, a second-year in molecular genetics and educational chair for PERIOD, said the group’s goal is get the product to every building on campus, including academic buildings and residence halls. Singh said its first focus is on getting products into the residence halls.

“We know it’s hard to get it into every restroom on campus starting out, but we hope to do a pilot program where we would get it into all the dorms first where they can supply you with menstrual products alongside toilet paper,” Singh said.

While PERIOD has not officially collaborated with USG yet, Singh said the group is in the process of officially connecting with them. Semmler, a fourth-year in finance, said USG is looking forward to collaborating on the issue.

“[PERIOD] is doing great work. They are using a grassroots advocacy approach on the program that we implemented,” Semmler said. “It’s groups like this that take the initiative to lean on an issue that you want to help raise up.”

USG’s goal is to not leave any bathroom on campus untouched, but will prioritize high traffic areas first.

“We are going to keep doing everything we can to be inclusive as possible,” Shamina Merchant, USG president and a fourth-year in information systems, said. “As far as the exact timeline of what that looks like, I don’t know yet but we are trying to move forward as quickly as possible and continue to expand. The priority will begin with high volume areas in general.”

Singh said the group plans to put together a budget and get the logistics in place before taking it to USG and the university, but the focus for now is on petitioning.

“This petition will emphasize the importance of the issue. That’s what we hope to do. This is something that needs to be prioritized and kind of draw attention to it,” Singh said. “So we have the passion element in, now we need to think about the practicality of it. That when we engage USG.”

Singh said PERIOD also wants to engage with janitorial staff because they are ultimately responsible for the stocking of the products.

The group plans to begin gathering signatures on the petition next week, Singh said. They don’t have a set goal for the number of signatures they hope to get, but the group gave themselves until the end of December to collect names.

“We really want to make sure the people signing the petition are people affected by this,” Singh said. “[We want] a number that makes a difference that makes the administration take our efforts seriously and reflects what Ohio State students really want.”

Singh said PERIOD has been working with Ohio House Rep. Brigid Kelly (D) to push Ohio House Bill 61, which aims to eliminate the luxury tax on purchasing tampons in Ohio, one that is not placed on products typically used by men, like Viagra.

“We find it so bizarre how menstrual products have a luxury tax on them almost like they are not grouped into the category of medical necessities even though over half of the population menstruates,” Singh said. “This is a fight for gender equality at the end of the day.”

PERIOD has a separate petition to remove the luxury tax on purchasing tampons that has gathered over 1,100 signatures so far out of 1,500, according to its change.org petition. But Singh said the goal is to collect 100,000.

“It’s a pretty big number,” Singh said. “This won’t happen next month or the month after that but definitely it’s a longer term thing we are working on because a bill won’t pass that fast.”

PERIOD also plans to take take this issue beyond Ohio State’s campus and into other communities in Ohio.

“For us once we get this accomplished at Ohio State we want to take it to other areas, like middle schools, high school and other colleges,” Kaur said.

23 comments

  1. So this group wants to put menstrual products in MEN’S restrooms too ? How would they feel about condoms in WOMEN’S restrooms? Common sense is something you are NOT born with, and people without it can make a lot of stupid demands.

  2. Wow, just wow! The parents of these children have failed them. Free is never free, someone is paying for it. So bottom line for these spoiled children is that they feel someone else should be paying for their supplies. OSU should calculate the cost of implementing this “free” program, which I’m sure is rather expensive considering the number of bathrooms on campus, equipment, supplies, manpower, upkeep, etc., and send a bill to this organization. Pay the bill, you get what you want. Don’t pay the bill, shut up and go away.

    • It’s not free. It’s literally included in your OSU fees. OSU has so many out-of-state and international students who are paying BIG money, so the university definitely DOES have the money for “free” services as such.

  3. This article represents so many things that are what is wrong with the society and culture that has been woven into the fabric of today’s collegiate environment. The only thing that the University listens to is money. Any alum that give money to the Ohio State University at this point are lemmings. There is so much knowledge out there to teach, so many REAL WORLD problems to focus on…why spend one moment of anyone’s existence focusing on “period poverty” in one of the richest campuses in the nation? How about the five girls pictured in this article taking some of their parents money and buying feminine hygiene products and personally taking them into the inner city or going door to door in urban communities?

    Stop the madness ladies. Do something that is actually productive with your lives and privilege.

    • Are you serious? You expect college students to go knocking door-to-door in inner city Columbus and give feminine hygiene products for free? Have you SEEN the type of people living in Weinland Park, the Short North, and/or the Hilltop? Please.

      Also, your agenda is pretty socialist in nature. May I remind you that the U.S. is capitalistic.

    • Actually, almost half of all college students are food insecure. If students can’t afford food, they most definitely can’t afford menstrual products. Menstrual Hygiene is a right, and not a luxury. Periods are one of the leading reasons girls miss school in the U.S. and we believe that a woman’s natural need should not pose as a barrier to her getting an education. In addition, the lack of access to menstrual products even leaves many menstruators more susceptible to acquiring toxic shock syndrome, due to wearing tampons over the 6-8 hour recommended period, which is a serious health concern. It’s a shame that menstrual products are seen as luxury items, rather than medical necessities when over half of the population menstruates once a month for an average of forty years of their life. This is really a fight for gender equality.

  4. This is awesome! It’s great to see students making a difference in such a thoughtful and inclusive way.

  5. This is fantastic and much needed. Thank you for being inclusive and forward thinking — you’re all awesome!

  6. This is awesome! Keep up the good work! And to the dude who asked how they’d feel if the ladies’ room had condoms, that’s an excellent idea, too!

  7. This is wonderful and so needed!

  8. Just wait until the University adds a “tampon fee” to your tuition bill…

  9. This is excellent! It’s odd that period supplies are treated as optional extras when they are anything but.

  10. Tony- I’d love to educate you more on this topic! Clearly you have never needed these products yourself, or have you been in a situation where you have no money to buy necessities like tampons and pads.

    • By all means…please educate me Marianne. I’d be very interested to see how long it took you to deviate from the argument and facts related to it.

  11. This is terrific!

  12. Can’t you just wander into a Planned Parenthood and get some free tampons? Isn’t women’s health what they are all about?

  13. A great group of ladies 🙂

  14. Oh man, I wish this initiative had been around when I went to OSU. Going to class, working, struggling to pay bills and then having your period on top of it? Glad there’s a group looking out for women like this. And also looking out for men who will score major points bringing tampons back for their ladies.

    • If you were struggling to pay bills, then you shouldn’t have gone to college at that particular time. You could always go later, once you had more money in the bank. Spending money when you don’t have any isn’t very wise. Unfortunately, most American youth don’t seem to realize that.

      • Joe- Not being able to afford menstrual products should NEVER be a reason for not getting an education. That is the point of our movement on campus.

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