College Council (CC) and Campus Services launched a six-month pilot program Sept. 6 to provide free tampons at three locations on Emory’s campus.

The program placed free tampon dispensers in the main women’s bathrooms in the Dobbs University Center (DUC), White Hall and the first two floors of Robert W. Woodruff Library.

Emory’s initiative is yet only a pilot program because CC and Campus Services need to collect data on use and cost  over the six-month period to determine if the program is used and financially feasible, according to Molly Zhu, CC president and College senior. Zhu and Julie Chen, CC co-assistant vice president of finance and Goizueta Business School junior, believe the initiative will remain after six months because the tampons will benefit over half the Emory population and the dispensers will be used often.  

Chen, who proposed the initiative last September at a CC retreat, said tampon provision and taxes have become prevalent topics on college campuses in recent years. In March, President Barack Obama questioned why 40 states tax tampons as a luxury item. Chen added that some U.S. universities, including Columbia University (N.Y.) and University of Minnesota, already offer free tampon programs. On Sept. 7, Brown University (R.I.) launched a program to provide free tampons in men’s, women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

Chen recognized that the lack of tampons in bathrooms on Emory’s campus — even those sold in machines — could cause great inconvenience for students.

Over the past year, Chen worked to implement the program with administrators including Chief of Staff for Campus Services Karen Salisbury, Assistant Vice President and Executive Director of Student Health and Counselor Services Michael J. Huey and Director of Health Promotion Heather Zesiger. Chen noted that if the tampons offered by the pilot are frequently used, Student Health Services and the Office of Health Promotion will fund the program, and Campus Services will stock the machines.  

Chen created a petition asking if students wanted free tampons on campus through Google Forms.

“[I] posted it on my own personal Facebook and then a lot of people shared it,” Chen said. “It kind of went viral, and within a week there [were] 900 responses for it from the Emory community.” Most of the responses were positive, Chen added.

Zhu and Chen said that Emory students, both male and female, have largely supported the initiative. However, they said, there have been a couple anomalies, including male students who expressed frustration because they could not benefit from this initiative.

“I concluded my conversation with one specific guy by saying, ‘I’m pursuing this initiative because this is what people care about,’ ” Chen said. “If no one cared, then no one would respond to my [petition] and there would be no support … if there was no support, then this obviously would not get pushed through.”

Chen hopes that this will become a University-wide initiative in the future, and that based on student interest in the initial petition, pads also will be provided later.

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