Students express concern on lack of menstrual products

BY EMMA RUBIN '21

Ever since the Mount Holyoke Campus Store moved out of its previous location in Blanchard to make room for the Student Life suite, students have had difficulty accessing personal goods the campus store used to stock, notably pads and tampons. 

In response to access concerns earlier in the semester, the health center began selling menstrual health products. The center uses a model similar to how they sell safe sex supplies on campus. “Near the urgent care door, using the honor system, small amounts of pads and tampons are in bags with the number and cost on the outside,” Director of Health Services Karen Engell said. Next to the supply is a metal box where students deposit cash based on what they bought. 

Although this system was announced in the Dean’s Corner several weeks ago, Engell said she does “not think we have had much demand for this.” 

The supply available at the Health Center was also announced at the Oct. 24 Senate Meeting, and some students, like Cheyenne Bishop ’18, were not aware of the program before then. “Ever since the campus store closed, I found it difficult to know where [to go] and what to do,” she said, “I did not see any items for sale in the Odyssey, and before the Senate meeting I had no idea the health center sold them.”

Every Wednesday and Sunday, auxiliary services provides transportation to CVS and certain PVTA buses include stops near stores where menstrual health products are available as well. 

Bishop said that the products available on campus that she has seen have been thin and small. “If I miss the CVS shuttle or the health center doesn’t have the specific type of product I’m looking for, I have to take the PVTA,” she said. Bishop says using public transit to get to CVS in Amherst or Target at the Holyoke Mall is time consuming. 

Katie Wallace ’21 agreed that there is some confusion about where to buy pads and tampons on campus. The Odyssey Bookstore also began selling them at the beginning of the semester, and is planning on continuing to offer them. 

“I believe the school should have menstrual products available in the dorms and in academic building bathrooms,” Wallace said, “perhaps [Mount Holyoke] could have a comprehensive list of the places on campus where students can purchase these items.”

The demand for free menstrual care at Mount Holyoke is part of a national movement across college campuses. According to the Washington Post, Brown University launched an initiative in the fall of 2016 which provided free pads and tampons across campus restrooms. The program also supplied men’s and gender-neutral restrooms with menstrual products in recognition of transgender students on campus. 

According to Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students, the effort is led by students, and the council maintains the supply in restrooms on a weekly basis. According to the Washington Post, funding for the project came from their budget which is determined by the Undergraduate Finance Board.

Wallace believes that Mount Holyoke and other colleges should provide free pads and tampons. “All students should be able to have equal access to menstrual products and making them free is a step towards that,” she said. However, Wallace also said that if free products are not yet attainable then there should at least be consistent prices across campus, “I have noticed that some bathrooms sell them for $0.75 while others sell for $0.50.”

“Menstrual products are a matter of public health and welfare,” said Rebekah Jakola ’19. Although Jakola recognized that Mount Holyoke may not be able to provide free menstrual products, they did say that “the school should work towards making them more accessible.”

“We are a historically women’s college. Not everyone on campus menstruates, but a huge majority do,” Jakola said. 

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