Free tampons and pads will be provided in select residence halls’ bathrooms and laundry rooms as a part of an Ohio State pilot program in partnership with Undergraduate Student Government and student organization Period OSU.
The pilot program will provide free tampons and pads in baskets on bathroom sinks in Bowen and Raney Houses as well as in dispensers in the laundry rooms of Jones and Taylor Towers to gather data about whether they are used appropriately, Anush Singh, president of Period OSU and a third-year in neuroscience, said. If the program is successful, it could be expanded to all residence halls.
Singh said this program builds off the previous initiative to put products in academic buildings. Julia Dennen, USG Vice President, said that the previous program was successfully implemented in over 150 academic buildings and every Student Life building following a pilot program that began in January 2018.
“This was basically a next step, getting it to the residence halls,” Singh said. “It’s a very exciting next step, and we really look forward to hopefully seeing it happen full-fledged after the pilot program.”
Singh said that an overwhelming response to surveys regarding menstrual products in the dorms helped create the pilot, and the dorm program will be tracked for at least the upcoming semester but may be extended for the year.
Singh said that when the idea for the pilot was first conceived, there was some debate between putting products in C-stores as opposed to residence halls, but ultimately, residence halls were chosen due to the program’s goal of reducing barriers — like cost — to menstrual products.
“We chose to push for it in residence halls because it just made a lot more sense, and our whole mission is trying to fight period poverty and making it not just more accessible, but more affordable for students who are pinching pennies trying to get by in college, and we just don’t want it to be a barrier for any student,” Singh said.
Dispensers in the laundry rooms of Jones and Taylor will aim to provide a more private atmosphere, and the baskets on the community bathroom sinks of Bowen and Raney will include literature about responsible use of the free products, Singh said.
Tampons and pads should be seen as natural a necessity as toilet paper, Singh said, and that there should not be a special budget for menstrual products.
“If we can budget for toilet paper, we can budget for free menstrual products,” Singh said.
In an effort to address that sentiment, the university is paying for the products out of the toilet paper budget, Singh said.
Dennen said that the program is focused on access to products, and because of that there is not much concern about the tampons and pads being stolen.
“We’re not concerned about them being stolen because if you have to steal and take tampons and pads, then do it,” Dennen said. “If we can provide it for you, that speaks to a much larger problem about the cost of these items, and if you feel the need to do that, then that is a bigger problem we need to solve.”
Singh said that if the pilot works out, she hopes the university can lead by example and create a ripple effect among other universities.
“I think it’ll be huge if Ohio State is able to successfully do this because we are the second-largest public university, so a lot of eyes are on us right now,” Singh said.