For the past month, members of the Planned Parenthood Generation Action Club (PPGA) have expressed frustration about the lack of free period products available to students across campus. A group of students who reached out to Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman, the Cox Health and Counseling Center and its director, Chris Smith, about their concerns were met with mixed responses.
“They were receptive at first, and they agreed that it was a need and a direct service that they could offer to a student body,” Caroline Cohen ’20, the club’s president, said. “But, understandably, they had difficulties allocating a budget for it.”
According to Kohlman, the debate over the availability of period products on campus has been ongoing for a number of years. Three years ago, the administration made the decision to put period products in Gund Gallery, the Kenyon Athletic Center and Peirce Dining Hall and get rid of all other dispensers. There was confusion as to whose responsibility it was to refill these dispensers. Natalie Twitchwell wrote in a 2017 Collegian article that “Lori Moore, who has worked in Maintenance for more than 30 years, does not remember the department refilling the dispensers during her tenure.”
But Kohlman said that even in the three current buildings, there have been issues. “We have not had a lot of turnover, so the big bulk box of tampons that we bought at maintenance had to be thrown away, because they’re expired,” he said.
Cohen explained why these tampons were going unused. “They cost a quarter to use,” she said. “Nobody carries a quarter with them.”
To compromise, these students have been told to come up with a proposal for a detailed explanation of how and why the College should supply period products. Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president of student affairs, outlined her expectations for the proposal: Students should lay out the number of machines that should be stocked with products, how regularly these dispensers would be stocked and who would be checking to ensure the products were not expired.
Cohen has worked strenuously on research for the proposal, stating that she does not want to give maintenance more work. “We’re going to partner with a business in Columbus called Ampflow that has 100-percent organic, biodegradable tampons and pads, and these dispensers would have free products,” Cohen explained. “The members of Planned Parenthood are willing to refill them.”
In addition, PPGA is asking for $2,500 from the College for these dispensers and menstrual products. This money would supply enough tampons and pads for six bathrooms: a mix between women’s, men’s and gender neutral. “These dispensers fit 500 tampons and pads, so we would only have to refill once a semester. The lever [has a 10-second delay] to stop overconsumption,” Cohen said.
Cohen said that she wants all bathrooms to eventually have these products available. “Kenyon offers condoms and toilet paper, similar hygiene products, so why can’t we offer tampons?” she argued.
Because of the current tax on menstrual products in Ohio, as well as the scarcity of products available in the Bookstore and Market, Cohen hopes that the administration considers the importance of this proposal.
“Menstruating is basic biology. Kenyon prides itself on being liberal and progressive, yet we don’t offer this direct service to more than half of our student body,” she said. “And I think that with academics and life, people have enough stressors to worry about. This should not be another thing that people have to think about.”