Free pads (and tampons) for undergrads

Remember my op-ed from September about free hygiene products? Well, I’m happy to report that Free Pads for Undergrads, Swarthmore’s hygiene product initiative, received full funding from the Student Budget Committee (SBC)!
After my original piece was published, I received positive feedback from friends and faculty. I immediately emailed Dion Lewis, Dean of the Junior Class, excitedly explaining the problem and prospective solutions. He sent me to Alice Holland, Director of Worth Health Center, who was more than willing to speak with me about free hygiene products. Although I was eager to be a part of this project, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of resignation. As most Swatties know, it’s easy to have great plans, but lack the time to explore or implement them. My meetings with Alice kept getting pushed back because of scheduling conflicts, and I was scared that my inability to meet with her would jeopardize the legitimacy of this issue. During Fall Break, however, I received an email from Chloe Klaus ’19 and Elle Chen ’19 regarding the creation of a student committee called Free Pads for Undergrads dedicated to obtaining free hygiene products. Not only did this erase my self-doubt, but it also restored my hope that this issue would be addressed and solved.
As a freshman, I wasn’t sure how large of an impact, if any, I would have on the Swarthmore community during my first year. Despite having tons of ideas swirling around in my head, I also had phone calls home to make, essays to write, and classes to attend. Writing about wanting free hygiene products was the easy part, but actually participating in direct action was entirely different. It’s so easy to remain passive and sit on your computer scrolling through Facebook, sharing heartbreaking news and devastating stories about human rights abuses. Throughout my life, I never felt as though I had the means to create positive change, but Chloe’s email proved to me that with campus-wide support, I could be a part of something great and long-lasting on this campus.
Since October, I’ve been working with an amazing group of Swatties conducting research and creating a budget for the Free Pads for Undergrads initiative. Don’t let the name fool you—free tampons are also covered! We have been in contact with faculty members and students from Brown and New York University who have pursued similar projects. Members of this group also represent other groups on campus, from the Sexual Health Advocates to the Roosevelt Institute. I could see change being made at every meeting, and every member showed genuine interest making these products readily available. We plan to have this project implemented by the spring semester and will continue to work until this is possible.
Although we have received funding from SBC, the fight is not over. This initiative will be entirely student-led, meaning students will be re-stocking bathrooms with hygiene products. Also, as with any pilot program, there are always a few kinks to be worked out. We intend to stock the bathrooms of academic buildings with these products, as we believe students have greater accessibility to pads and tampons in the dorms. We also want to stress the fact that these products are there in case of an emergency, so don’t throw away your boxes of pads and tampons. One thing is for sure: toilet paper pads will be a thing of the past come next semester!
In the future, we hope that Free Pads for Undergrads will be institutionalized. To reiterate a point I made in September, periods are natural. The cost to uphold this initiative wouldn’t make a dent in Swarthmore’s yearly budget, and I can’t think of a single downside to institutionalization. Swarthmore should stay true to its claim regarding support for students practicing self-care and work to make this campus both healthier and truly cash-free. I no longer want to fear the prospect of getting my period during class. I no longer want to frantically search the bottom of my backpack for a quarter that I already know I don’t have. I no longer want to text friends or ask classmates for a tampon or pad. I am not afraid to say that I want Swarthmore to fund my menstruation.  
The day those dispensers are either taken off the wall or unlocked, cries of jubilation will be heard across campus. Being a part of this initiative has showed me how much effort goes into implementing new projects, and how invested Swatties are in improving the quality of life on campus. I’m appreciative of all that is available to me on this campus but recognize that there are still flaws within the system. Hearing that students at Brown had to deal with pushback from administration was disheartening, but I don’t think that will be the case here at Swarthmore.    

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