This past week, the Undergraduate Student Government began a pilot program to provide free pads and tampons to the student body at the University of Connecticut. The initiative will provide free feminine hygiene products in female and gender neutral bathrooms in Homer Babbidge Library, the Student Union and the Student Recreation Facility. Originally $20,000 was allocated for this effort, but budget constraints have limited this allotment to $3,000. The success of the program will be monitored this year to determine its future. If the program goes particularly well, the locations where these products are available may eventually expand.
It is in some ways disappointing that it took action by USG to bring this about. UConn already provides many things at no cost to students in regards to safe sex, including: abstinence kits, condoms, dental dams and lubrication. This is certainly not a bad thing, in fact it’s very admirable to promote safe sex practices. But the fact remains that sexual acts are a choice—menstruation is not. There is no reason that providing safe sex supplies should take precedence over the provision of feminine hygiene products; the university should have done this a long time ago.
Supplying feminine hygiene products is not a trend unique to UConn. If UConn’s program becomes successful, it could ideally create a useful blueprint for other schools to follow. If colleges are willing to furnish students with safe sex supplies they should certainly be willing to fund feminine hygiene products as well.
One can only hope that these efforts will foster a larger conversation about feminine hygiene products. These products are still taxed as luxury items in the majority of states, which is quite honestly ridiculous when you consider the fundamental necessity of such items. Furthermore, there remains a taboo regarding the discussion of menstruation. Being able to have a conversation about this is the first step in rolling back dated policies and laws regarding feminine hygiene products. Undertakings like the one currently at UConn will hopefully help move the conversation in this regard by normalizing the topic.