The Tufts Community Union Senate Services Committee is taking steps to make menstrual products free and accessible to students on campus, based on a previously established initiative. Services Committee Chair Avani Kabra has been working on this project in collaboration with Class of 2023 Senator Caroline Ross.
“We are very passionate about women’s reproductive health, and it is important that Tufts provides these products for their students, especially those who are low-income since they impose a significant financial burden,” Kabra, a sophomore, wrote in an email to the Daily. “These menstrual products in public bathrooms are for people to take as needed and will help those who need it the most.
TCU President Sarah Wiener echoed Kabra’s sentiments.
“People who menstruate shouldn’t be taxed for their bodily functions,” Wiener, a senior, wrote in an email to the Daily. “The services committee saw this need to support students who menstruate. This project had begun in years prior and the Services Committee wanted to make sure it continued generally and during the pandemic.”
Kabra expanded on why the program is important to her.
“We are very excited to see it finally come to fruition,” Kabra said. “For me personally, I was shocked when I came to campus and saw that there were condoms available to students for free but not menstrual products. I knew that this was a project that I cared deeply about and wanted to see happen on campus.”
According to Kabra, a source of motivation for this initiative was seeing other institutions begin to provide free access to menstrual products on campus.
Menstrual products such as pads and tampons are often subject to a “luxury” tax. In Massachusetts, menstrual products are included in sales tax exemptions because they are considered medical products. However, there are 30 states where menstrual products are subject to a sales tax — states make over $150 million annually from menstrual product taxing.
The funding for the program comes from Health Service.
“It has always been part of our mission at Health Service to listen to the students about what they feel is important and to try to help them achieve their goals,” Marianne Coscia, nurse manager at Health Service, wrote in an email to the Daily.
Michelle Bowdler, executive director of Health and Wellness Services, said that the products are not expensive.
“The Health Service is funding this program right now, and it is very inexpensive,” Bowdler wrote in an email to the Daily. “Buying in bulk is much less expensive than retail costs for these products, and we spend less than $1,000 a year to support the program.”
She also explained how the system works.
“The students check the baskets in certain bathrooms and let us know when it’s time to stock,” Bowdler said. “They let our clinical manager know and she places an order.”
Kabra noted that student workers from Project SHARE, a group that works to create equitable access to health care, will distribute the products biweekly.
“These [products] will be in all the bathrooms, including women’s, men’s and all gender, so that this project is as inclusive as possible and to make sure that everyone who requires menstrual products has access to them,” Kabra said.
According to Wiener, in order to safely distribute these products during the pandemic, they will only be available in the Mayer Campus Center, Tisch Library, Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center and the dining halls. In the future, the Services Committee hopes to expand this project to dorms as well.