Letter: UMass needs menstrual equality now

Students deserve access to free menstrual products

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Letter Contributor

In 2020, Scotland became the first country to provide free menstrual products to all. Soon after, New Zealand followed with an announcement that menstrual products would become free to all students. Slowly, countries and institutions around the world are beginning to address period poverty or the unavailability of necessary menstrual products. While progress is being made, many smaller institutions, including the University of Massachusetts, still have not allocated funding to provide this necessity to students. Menstruation is a completely natural human process that has historically been unnecessarily stigmatized. The combination of stigma and period poverty results in a lack of menstrual equity. This is unacceptable in any setting, but especially on a college campus. Many campuses across the nation already have menstrual equity programs in place, and it is time for UMass to step up and do the same.

Period poverty has a massive reach across college campuses. According to a Harris Poll, four out of every five teenage students in the United States have either missed class themselves or know someone who has missed class because they did not have access to menstrual products. Furthermore, this inaccessibility disproportionately affects low-income students, making period poverty not only a health concern but also an issue pertaining to socio-economic justice. It is unacceptable that students face this problem daily: every student has the right to education and mental and physical wellbeing, and that means having access to menstrual products.

Period poverty exists here at UMass. With the challenges that many individuals have faced over the last year, it is anticipated that this will become an even more prominent issue on our campus. When students face financial stress, they are forced to prioritize their spending. Sometimes, menstrual health cannot be a priority. To address this issue on our campus, the UMass chapter of PERIOD Inc. has been advocating to provide free menstrual products in all restrooms on campus. With rising tuition and fees each year, as well as elevated financial stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students may not be able to afford basic necessities, including menstrual products, such as pads and tampons.

UMass PERIOD is proposing that the UMass administration provide pads, tampons and dispensers in all bathrooms and sanitary disposal bins in all stalls across campus. Products such as condoms and toilet paper are readily accessible to students across campus. The student body deserves the same access to menstrual hygiene products. UMass must begin to destigmatize periods for all individuals who experience them. It is an administrative duty to ensure that all students have access to the products they need.

The UMass chapter of PERIOD Inc. has drafted a pilot program that is proposed to launch on campus next fall. PERIOD has earned the support of many campus organizations. This proposal is currently supported by the Student Wellbeing Advisory Board, the Public Health Club and the Student Government Association senate. The SGA is an organization that represents all undergraduate students on campus; they voted to formally endorse this proposal on March 10, 2021. Overall, UMass has a responsibility to promote menstrual equity for all. As students, it is our responsibility to ensure this need is met. Time is up and we demand menstrual equity now!

Deirdre Keane and Madeleine Wilson

UMass Amherst PERIOD, Inc.