Resolution for free menstrual products is passed, but there’s still a long way to go

A three-day trial run for the program in November had a 99 percent positive feedback rate from students.

Every year, women at USC expect to tack on an extra $84 to $117 to their grocery budget. The money isn’t for food — it’s for tampons — and that cost might be reduced with a new Undergraduate Student Government resolution.

On Jan. 23, USG unanimously passed a free menstrual products resolution. The resolution calls for the distribution of free feminine hygiene products on USC's campus, and it would require all female and gender-neutral bathrooms to dispense free pads and tampons.

"This initiative has been worked on for over a year now," said Mai Mizuno, one of the senators who originally spearheaded the initiative. "We're in the phase where we are choosing what vendors we're going to have supply the restrooms."

Free pads and tampons are available through the Engemann Student Health Center, but Debbie Lee, current senator sponsoring the resolution, said the building is out of the way for most students. In addition, the products are only available when the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

"Menstrual products are just a basic necessity for people who menstruate," Lee said. "The worst part about menstruating is that often times, it's something that you can't foresee."

When the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion is closed, students will have to make a trip to the nearest convenience store. CVS on Figueroa or Target at the USC Village are the closest to campus.

The price for a 36-pack of tampons at these stores ranges from $6.99 to $9.79. If students are buying a pack of tampons once a month, the cost quickly adds up.

Marina Hrovat, author of the resolution, said a three-day trial run for the initiative was held in about 15 bathrooms on campus in November. Hrovat said that while the trial received 99 percent positive feedback from students, there were logistical pitfalls with product distribution and access for all students.

"There were boxes [of tampons] that were stolen," Hrovat said. "We're looking into the sustainability of menstrual products, and we got some feedback questioning the acceptability of people who may not identify with using menstrual products."

The resolution is currently structured to be implemented "in all nonresidential women's and gender neutral bathrooms on the University Park and Health Sciences campuses," but Hrovat says USG may expand to male restrooms as well.

"We had a couple of conversations about accessibility for trans students," Hrovat said. "But we are making sure that these products are in fact provided in gender-neutral restrooms."

Hrovat is currently working with Tampon Tribe, Playtex and Tampax to supply the products.

When the initiative was launched, Mizuno said she spent several months reaching out to universities who had implemented this program on their campuses, including Brown, Columbia and University of Houston.

"We tried to come up with the best framework from those universities that could be applied to our university," Mizuno said. "We talked to Brown University's chief of staff and tried to get an idea of how many menstrual products were in each restroom and how they funded it."

Lee said she doesn't want the cost to come out of the student programming fees, but rather provided to the students through a supplier.

"Students should not have to pay for this bare necessity," Lee said.

This article was edited for clarification.