Following an article in the February issue of The Commentator titled “The Case for Free Tampons at YU,” the YU administration recently decided to provide free tampons and pads in select restrooms on both the Beren and Wilf campuses. The cost of the products, which according to Dean of Students Dr. Chaim Nissel will be “a few hundred dollars,” is to be covered by the budget of the Office of Student Life.
In the article, writer Yardena Katz argued that YU should supply female restrooms on both campuses with free tampons. At a bare minimum Katz asked that tampon dispensers be installed and stocked in all restrooms on campus, but she also advocated for free tampons as an investment “in maintaining the dignity of students experiencing their periods.”
Katz noted in her piece that “about half of the YU undergraduate students are female and 86% of female adults have unexpectedly gotten a period in public without menstrual supplies.” She also pointed out that a recent monthlong trial of free tampon dispensation at the University of Chicago cost only $75.
Nissel told The Observer that following Katz’s article “we researched the issue” and found that “several school districts and colleges have recently made tampons and pads available for students in need,” as Katz similarly noted in her article. Nissel also noted that the decision was reached “after consulting with colleagues and students on campus.”
The Beren Student Life Committee was consulted to select which bathrooms will be stocked. On the Beren campus tampons and pads will be available in the cafeteria and 3rd floor bathrooms of 215 Lex and the ground and 7th floor of 245 Lex. On the Wilf campus they will be available in the women’s lounge in the library lobby. It was also decided that the products will be available in baskets, as opposed to dispenser machines that, Nissel noted, are “prone to jamming.” Asked if this will be a long term initiative or just trail run, Nissel responded “we hope people use it as intended, for emergencies. If students start stealing them to hoard, we’ll have to rethink things.”
In his statement to the The Observer Nissel also made sure to take note of the role of student activism in this decision, stating that “we appreciate students bringing this issue forward and are glad we are able to accommodate the request.”
While this can certainly be seen as a victory, some on campus would argue that there is still more to be done. Conversations with long-serving professors and staff confirmed that up until about eight years ago all bathroom tampon dispensers on both campuses used to be freely stocked. While they were discontinued at Stern, some of the women’s bathrooms at Wilf, such as on the 13th floor of Belfer, are reportedly still being stocked, though their funding source remains unconfirmed.
When interviewed by The Observer, Katz said, “I am very excited that YU is recognizing the public health need for accessible tampons and pads on our campuses. This is an initiative that not all universities would be willing to seriously consider, and I’m proud that our institution is demonstrating a commitment to student health and dignity, and responsiveness to student feedback.”
When asked to reflect on her experience helping to advocate for this initiative, Katz noted that while there were frustrations along the way, it was “ultimately a positive experience.” Katz had reached out to YU Facilities Services prior to writing her article and received no response, but after having her article published and then following up with Nissel about the implementation of a free tampon trial she found him “supportive and encouraging of further student input.”
Katz said that the experience in its entirety has left her considering both “the relative efficacy of student journalism as a means of promoting change at YU” as well as “how our other mechanisms for student feedback – like student councils and SLC – can evolve to become even more accessible to students, and empowered by the administration, in representing student opinions.”
According to Nissel “the tampons and pads have been ordered and, as soon as they arrive, will be available.”