The accessibility of menstrual products can be a messy subject.
Oftentimes, students get caught unprepared with their periods. When this happens on campus, we either have to ask around the bathroom for a spare or go to Ackerman Union, Lu Valle Commons or another store on campus to buy an overpriced box of pads or tampons when we only really need one or two to get through the day before heading to CVS or our home supply.
But, there are students who are working to fix this issue, at least on UCLA’s campus. Students in the undergraduate student government general representative office are working on a fund through GoFundMe, a crowdsourcing platform, to provide menstrual products for free at various places throughout campus. While GoFundMe is a good platform for starting projects, it’s ultimately not meant to provide a stable source of funding for something like a necessary campus resource.
Administrators, particularly those at the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, need to work with the fund to ensure menstrual products, just like condoms, are made available at various spots throughout campus, or at least at the center’s facilities, through established funding and support.
The GoFundMe platform is not the only thing that can hinder the fund’s sustainability. Students’ donations are an unpredictable source of funding, making it difficult to allocate future funds. This could cause the amount of menstrual products available to fluctuate greatly from donation period to donation period, defeating the reliability of the resource.
Additionally, the students spearheading the fund, Ria Jain, a third-year molecular cell and developmental biology student, and Aaliya Khan, a general representative for the Undergraduate Students Association Council, won’t always be around. While they can task future student government members with sustaining the project, without any administrative involvement, there is no guarantee that the program will survive.
The administration has a clear goal to sustain the university and ensure students have the resources necessary to be productive students and community members. That’s why we have so many administrators – each is charged with handling assumed student needs. For example, free condoms are provided because they are needed to have safe sex. Study spaces such as Powell Library, Kerckhoff Hall and Ackerman Union are open for 24 hours during finals week because it’s such a crucial time for students to be able to study in peace. Just the same, menstrual products are necessary for menstruating students to maintain their health, both mental and physical.
Other universities understand this. At UC Santa Barbara, the campus’ Women’s Center provides free tampons and pads. While UCLA currently doesn’t have a women’s center on campus – although student government members have advocated for one over the years – that doesn’t mean necessary resources for women can’t be provided at other locations. After securing more stable funding, the menstrual product fund could partner with other centers, such as the Ashe Center or the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Campus Resource Center, to make sure these products are accessible to women on campus so they’re not left stranded.
These centers, and others on campus, already help students lead healthy lives. They offer free condoms to students to promote safe sex anytime they are open. Making sure menstrual products are readily available to students is a sensible addition to this service, considering that, unlike sex, a period is not optional for most women and oftentimes the start of their next menstrual cycle can’t be precisely predicted.
A lot of things happen on college campuses that students want to focus on – from school to work to extracurriculars. With support from the university, readily available menstrual products can hopefully be institutionalized, even as students graduate. Students who prioritize reproductive health above other student causes won’t always be around, but menstrual products should be.
Making these products accessible on campus is necessary, not only for clearly prioritizing women’s health, but also for ensuring students’ days aren’t any more messy than they already are.