Students argue for right to purchase feminine products on meal plan

Rachel Stevenson

A total of 3,900 students living on campus in immediate need of access to feminine care products such as tampons and pads. Kent State students have developed a petition for the sale of these items in markets across campus where meal plans are accepted.

“That’s a big group, so why aren’t we catering to everyone’s needs?” said Olivia Mullen, director of student involvement for the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and sponsor of a USG resolution in support of the cause.

Mullen said she hopes to see the products distributed in markets located in Eastway, Prentice Hall and Tri-Towers so students can use excess meal plan money to purchase the personal care items they need.

Freshman public relations major Natalie Eusebio has $760 left on her meal plan, which she said she would use to purchase some personal care items, if they were more readily available on campus.

“I forget that you can’t do that sometimes, like at the bookstore,” she said. “You’re spending the money either way, so I don’t see why it matters.”

However, Mullen said the possibility of using meal plan to purchase these items is still under discussion.

“It could be a possibility,” Mullen said. “It is what we’re kind of hoping for, but I definitely think we’ll settle for any kind of payment as long as they’re on campus. That’s the goal at this point.”

Cassandra Pegg-Kirby, assistant director of the Kent State Women’s Center, said she agrees students should have constant access to tampons and pads at convenient locations across campus.

“It’s not frivolous. It’s not a luxury. This is a basic need that should be provided,” she said.

However, Pegg-Kirby also said she is concerned the use of meal plan to purchase these items could take away from money students need for food.

“I wouldn’t want someone to have $10 left on their meal plan and have to think about, ‘Do I get lunch today or do I get feminine care products?’” she said. “I wouldn’t want for someone whose money is tight, to have to make that decision.”

According to a study conducted by the Huffington Post, women spend approximately $1,773 on tampons alone throughout their lifetime, with almost 70 percent of all women using the feminine hygiene product during their monthly cycles.

For students like Eusebio living on campus with excess meal plan, Pegg-Kirby said the convenience of selling tampons in campus markets is ideal.

The need for readily available feminine hygiene products is at an all-time high, with nearly 60 percent of the entire Kent State population identifying as female, Mullen said.

“It makes sense for things you need day-to-day to be on campus to be purchased, rather than going downtown,” she said.

Mullen said the university is under contract negotiation, which creates an opportunity to expand products being offered in on-campus markets.

“With the university currently in contract negotiation, the community has been finally afforded an opportunity to address products on campus that students would like to be sold,” said Matthew Chernesky, senator-at-large and co-sponsor of the USG resolution, in an email.

He believes lack of access to personal care items like tampons can negatively influence academic performance by requiring students to go off campus to buy the products they need.

“Personal care and hygiene products, such as tampons and pads, are not a luxury. They are a medical necessity,” Chernesky said. “When students have to worry about how to acquire these products, or when they have to travel off-campus, that is time that they cannot spend studying for their exams or doing homework.”

Therefore, Chernesky said, he has faith in the university to recognize and address this issue in order to promote the health and well being of students.

Pegg-Kirby said she hopes to see the university eventually work towards distributing free tampons on campus so that all students including those without meal plan can have constant access to the products they need, regardless of their financial state.

“Figuring out how we would make it happen is the challenge. It’s not unrealistic. It’s just figuring out how to make it happen,” Pegg-Kirby said.

She said while she does not feel petitioning for tampons in campus markets is a particular challenge, finding a way to give students free tampons on campus could generate some backlash.

“On social media I see some backlash about women wanting tampons for free, (but) I think more of the challenge is apathy,” Pegg-Kirby said. “I think the fact is people don’t really care one way or another toward the issue. Through this conversation and through this petition there will be an awareness that this is important.”

Feminine hygiene products are currently only offered on campus in the bookstore in packs of 18, and Mullen said students purchasing feminine products in the bookstore receive less for their money.

“One day I went out there and there was only one box of tampons and one box of pads,” she said.

Mullen hopes by petitioning the right of students to purchase tampons on campus, the Kent State community will recognize the importance of readily available feminine products and rally behind this cause.

“It’s about supporting your community. It’s supporting the people you sit next to in class, and it’s about supporting the right to these products,” she said. “If you really strongly believe in something and advocate for the right of people to it, then it could bring out change.”

Rachel Stevenson is the residence services reporter, contact her at [email protected]