Why American University Should Provide Free Menstrual Hygiene Products

Each year, American University undergraduates pay an extremely high price for their education. To be exact, they pay over $60,000 for tuition and fees plus room and board at American. Students at AU are already scraping their pockets to attend this esteemed university in the nation's capital, and many are under significant financial strain by being enrolled here, but chose to attend this fine institution nonetheless. At a university that prides itself on diversity and inclusion, administrators have continued to look past one way that most students at AU are being marginalized. 

By most students, I mean students who menstruate. By failing to provide menstrual hygiene products, these students are forced to pay even more money out of their pocket while they are enrolled in college for items that are still taxed as a "luxury" in all but a few states. What is most alarming is that providing tampons and sanitary napkins to students has somehow fallen at the bottom of the list of potential expenditures for the university. Somehow, our school continues to make expenditure after expenditure on other university alterations while overlooking the very real needs of students each day.

The Washington Post reported that students at Brown University have taken it upon themselves to kick-start efforts to have tampons and sanitary napkins provided on campus, even in men's restrooms. The Post quotes Terry O'Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, stating that 'Students’ participation in school should not be hindered by insufficient access to this basic necessity.' O'Neill continues on to defend the claim that menstrual hygiene products should be viewed in the same manner as toilet paper in that the two items are both absolute necessities.

Free Condoms But Not Free Tampons?

It should be just as easy to find a free tampon or sanitary napkin on campus as it is to find a free condom. While my aim is not to devalue the importance of sexual health, I believe that menstrual health should also be a priority of our university. Her Campus American University contacted the Wellness Center here at AU to discuss providing tampons and sanitary napkins in addition to the several methods of contraception (condoms, female/insertive condoms, dental dams, lubricant) already offered for free. However, we learned that many of these items are provided for free by the District of Columbia Health Department, and the Wellness Center budget is not large enough to purchase the amount of menstrual hygiene products to accommodate for the entire university. We urge our university to re-evaluate the budget distribution to locate the necessary funds to finance this initiative, and we also recommend the administration look to fellow Patriot League institution, Bucknell University, which has just recently started providing menstrual hygiene products in womens' and gender neutral restrooms as part of the "Free the Tampon movement."

The process of getting our university to provide these services will not be easy, but we know there is power in numbers, so we would be grateful if you could sign our petition to spearhead this effort located here. Please share the petition using the hashtag #Lady&theTamp

Menstrual Hygiene on a Larger Scale

But this issue does not begin, nor does it end with American University. These products are a long way away from being provided in all of our nation's public restrooms and public schools. It is clear that the issue of the tampon tax must be addressed by the federal government before the nation can begin to push for free access to these products in public facilities. In addition, the subgroup of college students are by no means the only population who often has a difficult time affording these products. Homeless women encounter far greater difficulties in acquiring access to tampons and sanitary napkins. We acknowledge that the needs of this population of women are far greater than our own, and encourage you to donate to this cause here.