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yale started offering free sanitary pads and tampons in residential facilities three years ago. Now, students and staff are reflecting on the University’s ongoing efforts to promote menstrual equity on campus.
Since 2017, the Yale College Board has explored the possibility of offering free menstrual products to female students. Today, sanitary napkins, tampons, and condoms are primarily available to students in the basement laundromats of their residential colleges and at two entrances on Old Campus, with supplies provided by the Office of Campus Gender and Culture. Most recently, the Yale Women’s Center has announced a partnership with the YCC to expand the accessibility of menstruation products on campus.
“We just want a really targeted and concerted effort by the University to do something that increases accessibility on campus, rather than an afterthought,” said Theia Chatelle ’25, political action coordinator for the Yale Women’s Center.
Unlike toilet paper, soap, paper towels, or other personal hygiene essentials, menstruation products are rarely offered for free in campus bathrooms. Additionally, the inflationary economic climate is exacerbating the cost burden of purchasing period products, placing an undue financial burden on menstruating individuals.
As of June 9, for example, average sanitary napkin prices increased 8.3% and average tampon prices increased 9.8% compared to last year’s prices.forcing many budgets. In its fall 2017 survey, the YCC found that “the purchase of menstrual hygiene products represented a financial burden for approximately half of Yale students.”
Pads, tampons and condoms in residential schools
Currently, Yale Consent and Communication Educators, or CCEs, are responsible for stocking residential colleges and the Old Campus with menstrual products, including sanitary napkins, tampons, and pads.
There are currently 57 CCEs at Yale, spread across each of Yale’s 14 residential colleges. A CCE from each school is assigned the responsibility of distributing sexual health products in those same places, such as internal and external condoms, lubricants, dental protectors and other supplies.
Ryan Huynh ’23, project coordinator for the CCE program, explained that the location varies by college, but supplies are often kept at residential college laundry rooms in small baskets. On Old Campus, they are located in the laundry rooms in the basements of Farnam Entryway B and Bingham Entryway D.
How often colleges are replenished with menstrual products depends on how often the products are used.
“In my experience, supplies are replenished once every one to two weeks, but this can be adjusted based on the rate of consumption,” Huynh wrote to the News. “The goal is for these baskets to be stocked at all times.”
According to Huynh, there are other spaces beyond residential colleges where menstrual products are available.
These include the Yale Women’s Center and Yale Health, which have, according to Huynh, “similar programs and resources regarding the distribution of free menstrual products on campus.”
Yale College Board partners with Yale Center for Women
On the Yale College Board October 2 meetingthe YCC approved a $500 partnership with the Yale Women’s Center to improve the “quality and accessibility of women’s products across campus.”
In an email to News, YCC President Leleda Beraki explained that the YWC reached out a few weeks into the school year to request these funds for menstrual and contraceptive products.
“The YWC sent the YCC an itemized list of the products they intended to purchase with a total cost of $500,” Beraki wrote. “Whether this is enough to achieve his goals for the year, we can’t really speak. The YWC has a much better idea of what they need and how often! Our only role in this was to fill a need that was asked of us.”
According to Beraki, YWC products will be available to both Yalies and New Haven residents, in accordance with YWC’s product purchase and supply schedule.
Chatelle expressed concern about the lack of access to menstrual products in student restrooms. In particular, Chatelle referred to the current system as a “interim approach.”
“No one really uses [the products provided in residential college basements] because it’s in a very uncomfortable place,” Chatelle said. “It kind of creates this extra stigma: why do you put it in the corner of the basement in the laundry room?”
The Yale Women’s Center, located in the basement of Durfee Hall, is “staffed all week by student volunteers, who can offer support, advice and free dental dams and condoms,” according to the website of the Office of LGBTQ+ Resources. The YWC’s goal in working with the YCC, Chatelle explained, is to provide students with access to higher quality menstrual products than those provided in residential colleges.
In an email to News, the interim director of the Office of Campus Gender and Culture, or OGCC, Eilaf Elmileik wrote that the placement of the products was decided in 2018, when the YCC first began work on a program to make menstrual products more available. on campus.
“If there are any concerns or comments on this aspect or others, I would be happy to speak further with anyone interested,” Elmileik wrote. “In my work with OGCC, I meet weekly with two members of the Women’s Center and have also let them know that I am happy to continue this conversation.
Chatelle expressed concern that the products currently available at residential colleges are not of sufficient quality.
condoms [are] which everyone comes to the Women’s Center and tells us they want,” Chatelle said. “The multicolored condoms, nobody uses them because you can go to the laundry and see that they could have been there for eons.”
Chatelle hopes to use the $500 provided by YCC to make higher quality products more readily available to students. But the YWC also hopes to expand this work, with the support of the YCC.
Beraki explained that the YCC plans to assist the YWC by supporting proposal writing and submission to management, particularly around its goals of making Plan B more widely available and offering better quality brands of pregnancy and menstrual resources in the campus.
Chatelle compared efforts for affordable sexual health products at Yale to programs at peer institutions, such as Middlebury and Harvard, which provide products to students in restrooms at no cost.
In 2017, Middlebury University converted 54 tampon dispensers on campus to “free dispensers.” Also, since 2019, A variety of menstrual and sexual health products have been provided in the freshman and sophomore dormitories at Middlebury. Similarly, at Harvard, in the fall of 2017, the College Council allocated $1,000 for a pilot program in freshman dormswhich was expanded to four senior houses later that year.
“We are now evaluating different policy proposals [with the YCC]Chatelle said. “The ultimate goal would be to pressure the university to provide menstrual products in all bathrooms on campus.”
Menstrual products at other campus locations
These ongoing efforts to offer period products in student restrooms are reminiscent of early proposals promoting menstrual equity, even before CCEs were involved.
“For a long time, dispensers in restrooms have been difficult to maintain,” wrote Melanie Boyd, dean of Student Affairs at Yale University, “so the YCC decided to focus on residential colleges and the Old Campus.”
According to Boyd, the YCC began work on a project to make disposable menstrual products more widely available in 2018. The program was designed to provide free menstrual products at every residential college and on Old Campus, with the support of the former Yale College dean Marvin Chun and the principals of the schools.
A pilot test was conducted in the spring of 2019, organized by different configurations of students and staff at each university, resulting in 14 different processes for the YCC to track.
In the fall of 2019, the YCC asked the Campus Gender and Culture Office if CCEs could distribute menstrual products along with condom supplies, to which the CCEs agreed to test. Over time, the OGCC took over the ordering process and simplified the system.
Beyond residential colleges, Senate of Graduate and Professional Students and Forum of Women Teachers began their program place free menstruation products in the restrooms of the Sterling Library. Instead of relying on students to restock baskets or bags outside of frequently visited spaces, he relies heavily on vintage product dispensers installed directly in the restrooms.
Accessibility in Sterling, and around campus, is mixed. Often these dispensers are present but out of stock or broken.
The News visited 10 different restrooms in five campus buildings on October 21. One of the 10 offered menstrual products.
Huynh encouraged students with questions or concerns to contact the CCEs assigned to their residential college.
The Yale Women’s Center is generally open Sunday through Thursday nights.