Her Campus American University’s push for American University to provide free menstrual hygiene products on campus began this February with an online petition, which garnered nearly 450 signatures. After the petition was circulated, Her Campus American met with former Vice President of Campus Life, Dr. Gail Short Hanson, as well as Dean Robert Hradsky and former Assistant Vice President Dr. Fanta Aw. Her Campus American University (HCAU) has since worked with both HOSPECO and Acme Paper and Supplies to create an official budget proposal to implement a pilot program at AU. The pilot program proposal was approved this summer by the newly appointed Vice President Dr. Aw and AU facilities management staff.
The menstrual products, consisting of pads and tampons, are presently available in the women’s and gender neutral restrooms in Kerwin Hall, the School of International Service, and the Bender Library. If the pilot program is a success, HCAU and the Office of Campus Life hopes to see the initiative expanded to other buildings and men’s restrooms, as well.
The Office of Campus Life and HCAU are committed to the importance of providing menstrual products to anyone who menstruates. It is estimated that in the American University community, over 63% of individuals have a monthly menstruation. With the high cost of menstrual products, it’s imperative that students receive these products to manage their menstruation and more actively participate in their academics.
According to the Washington Post, a study by California Congresswoman Cristina Garcia found that menstruating individuals spend an average of $7 a month to pay for these products. This financial burden is felt exclusively by students who menstruate. At the American University Campus Bookstore, students can purchase a 2-pack of Kotex tampons for $1.98, which is the cheapest overall option, or an 18 pack of tampons for $6.99 (about $0.38 per piece). Also, the cheapest option for pads is a pack of 16 priced at $5.49 ($0.34 per piece) or a 20 pack of panty liners for $1.79 ($0.09 per piece). If menstruating students shop exclusively at the AU Bookstore and use 10 pads per cycle, they will pay $40.80 per year. If they use 18 tampons per cycle per year, they will pay $83.88. Or, students using 10 tampons and 10 panty liners per cycle will pay $56.40 annually. It is necessary to note that those individuals with heavier and longer cycles will be forced to pay sums far greater than these. These place a severe financial strain on many students, and for many of whom this cost is much too high.
American University joins the ranks of several universities that have implemented free menstrual hygiene product programs including: Brown University, Cornell University, Bucknell University, Duke University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
HCAU corresponded with American University’s Student Government, the Queer Women’s Advocacy Committee, and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in order to gauge the campus response to this initiative. Student Government President, Taylor Dumpson, said the following after learning about the pilot program: “On behalf of American University Student Government (AUSG), we are proud of the hard work HCAU and the Office of Campus Life have put into this pilot initiative to best support students, both physically and fiscally, as well as to help dismantle the stigma of menstruation.”
Emi Hughes, coordinator of the AU Queer Women’s Advocacy Committee released the following statement about the pilot program: “on behalf of the Queer Women’s Advocacy Committee, I would like to express my excitement for this project, and the relief it will bring to students who otherwise may struggle to afford menstrual products. AU has always strived to support its students with free sexual health products, and I believe it is important for menstrual hygiene to be added to that. Thank you to all the students who worked to make this project possible!”
“AUSG Women’s Initiative fully supports the campus initiative to offer individuals free and accessible menstrual hygiene products,” said Maureen Smith, the Director of AU’s Student Government Women’s Initiative. “As an office on campus that has often offered free safe sex and menstrual hygiene products, we are happy to hear that menstrual hygiene products will be accessible to folks in multiple buildings on campus. It is our hope that this program will be a sustainable model and will set a standard for access to free wellness resources at American University.”
American University’s own Senior Director for the Center for Diversity & Inclusion, Tiffany Speaks told Her Campus American that “we often think of this topic as one of concern for other places and spaces. I appreciate Her Campus’ commitment to recognizing the critical needs on the AU campus as well.”
HCAU commends the enthusiasm and leadership of Dr. Aw and the Office of Campus Life for their efforts to launch this pilot program, which will ease the financial burden of menstruation for countless students.
Photos belong to Her Campus American University.