Beginning this quarter, the Associated Students of UW Tacoma has launched a program that provides UW Tacoma students with free access to menstrual products. This project was initiated by IAS Senator Hanan Gumale, and coordinated by ASUWT’s Director of University Affairs, Christie Peralta.
“It all started last year when the school and ASUWT was having a conversation of how to support homeless students and student[s] facing food insecurity,” Gumale said. “I thought to myself, ‘How can students who were already struggling with affording food could possibly afford to buy menstrual products?”’
This pilot project aims to be inclusive of all students that may benefit from having access to the products, even if they don’t identify as female. For this reason, one dispenser is located in a gender-neutral bathroom in MAT 105.
“We’re also hoping this program will increase awareness of the gender neutral restrooms on campus,” Peralta said. “So far we were only able to place a dispenser in one gender neutral restroom … we are hoping that the success of this pilot program will show there is a need to have more than four dispensers on campus and allow us to expand to other parts of campus.”
ASUWT has coordinated with Student Health Services to make this project possible. The products are paid for through the Services and Activities fee that all students contribute to as part of their tuition costs, with a special allocation request from Student Health Services.
“Currently 35 states tax menstrual products, including Washington state,” Gumale said. “Menstrual products are expensive and Washington state taxes these necessities with a 6.5 percent sales tax. Although items such as condoms and chopsticks are exempt.”
Gumale expresses concern for students’ academic success as part of her motive for initiating this program.
“The last thing we want is for a student to miss class because they could not afford to buy menstrual products,” Gumale said. “Our university speaks a lot about equity and supporting our students and identifying barriers they face. This is one of them. Instead of spending around $140 a year on these necessities, they could perhaps spend it on textbooks, food, transportation or anything else that helps them be here and succeed.”
The free dispensers can be found in four areas around campus. Aside from the gender-neutral bathroom in MAT 105, the products can be found in the first-floor of women’s restrooms in JOY, SNO, and WG.
“I hope this program can lighten the financial burden and create a more equitable university for our students,” Gumale said.