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Free pads, tampons available in Student Union restrooms

UNC students have created a movement and petition to get the university to provide female hygiene products around campus free of charge.
UNC students have created a movement and petition to get the university to provide female hygiene products around campus free of charge.

Boateng Kubi, the board’s chairperson and a senior biology major, said the Union renovated its tampon and pad dispensers to distribute products for free in December.

“All you have to do is turn the knob and the product will drop out for you,” said Crystal King, the director of the Carolina Union.

Kubi said the Union buys 2,500 tampons and 1,250 pads a year.

He said the Union’s housing and maintenance budget covers the expected need for the products, but money might have to come from other places if demand is higher than anticipated.

“There’s no way for us to know what exactly the need is going to be as this rolls out,” Kubi said.

He said the Union will track demand and expenses for the next few months, and restock if supply runs low.

King said she decided to make the issue a priority in August when a student brought to her attention that people do not always have menstrual products or a quarter on their person when they get their period.

Gloria Thomas, director of the Carolina Women’s Center, said periods often start at unexpected times when they’re the last thing on a person’s mind.

“You often go into these restrooms and have the machines, but who always has a quarter on them when you walk into a restroom?” she said. “You don’t think about when your period may or may not come, especially if you’re a busy student or you have a busy life.”

King said the Union pays its supplying company 18 cents per tampon or pad. She said before the products became free, the Union made seven cents per item, which went to student activities. She said the money raised was not substantial.

She said students have a responsibility to take only what they need.

“We know from having the free condoms in the Union that sometimes a student will walk in the bathroom and empty all the condoms in their backpack and so there’s none available for other students,” she said.

Thomas said lack of access to menstrual products is one of the main reasons girls in developing countries drop out of school and it might be a reason why students in the U.S. miss class. She said paying for menstrual products is a gender equity issue.

“I hope this becomes a common practice all across campus,” Thomas said. “I think free feminine hygiene products should be made as readily available as toilet paper and soap.”

Kubi said he thinks the Carolina Union can be a leader for other universities and hopes the trend will spread to other bathrooms on campus.

“I think it’s important not just that it’s being offered but where it’s being offered, because the Carolina Union really is at the heart of the University both physically and metaphorically,” Kubi said.

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