It didn’t take long after arriving at NYU to know where we could find free condoms on campus: residence halls, the Health Promotion Office and other school-sponsored events. It was clear that NYU cared about our sexual health — sort of. While we could obtain condoms with relative ease, we struggled to access menstrual hygiene products.
On average, we each spend about $10 a month on MHPs — $10 that students who don’t menstruate never have to spend. Together, over the course of four years at NYU, that’s $960. At an expensive university where many students face large amounts of debt, our budgets can’t always accommodate those $10 a month. We shouldn’t have to choose between MHPs and other necessities like pricey textbooks, groceries or MetroCards. Our bodies shouldn’t have to be more expensive than other bodies.
Finances are not the only obstacle here. It’s often difficult to predict exactly when your period will start, how long it will last or how many MHPs you’ll need over the course of a day. Between the two of us, we can recall numerous times when we’ve had to stuff wads of toilet paper in our pants, return to class and sit for an hour in discomfort. We’re often distracted, plagued by questions like: Am I staining the seat? Is the bathroom dispensary stocked? Do I even have a quarter? Wait, what did my professor just say? This, in itself, is an impediment to our education.
We are not alone in this. It is common to run into a student in the bathroom who is desperately seeking a tampon or pad. The situation is even more troublesome for menstruating students who use men’s restrooms, since they may not find anyone in the bathroom they are comfortable asking for MHPs. NYU is committed to ensuring that all students feel safe using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, and yet, to fully realize this goal, there must be access to free MHPs in all university bathrooms.
By making MHPs inaccessible to those who need them, NYU implicitly accepts that barriers to education based on anatomy are permissible. This is unfair and discriminatory. NYU should take immediate steps to address this by providing free MHPs in all restrooms in major school buildings, on both campuses. Additionally, free supplies should be located in convenient locations such as the Health Promotion Office and Student Resource Centers.
Other schools around the country, including Brown University and the University of Minnesota already recognize the needs of students who menstruate by providing free MHPs. NYU, however, has not been receptive to our call for similar action. On Thursday, Student Senators will introduce a resolution appealing for support from the Student Senators Council in our efforts. We, alongside the rest of Students for Sexual Respect, will continue pushing for this until we see change.
Josy Jablons and Megan Racklin are co-founders of Students for Sexual Respect. Email Jablons at [email protected]