Sign: Free Pads/Tampons at Columbia
Over the last year, members of Columbia College Student Council, Engineering Student Council, and General Studies Student Council have researched and proposed the supply of free pads and tampons, by the University, in bathrooms across Columbia’s campus. Student volunteers have spent countless hours conducting pilots and collecting data that demonstrate a clear usage and thus need for sanitary items in bathrooms, particularly in those within academic buildings and other locations further from residential halls. During the semester-long pilot of spring 2017, 12 tampons and 9 pads were stocked once-weekly in over 15 bathrooms across campus. Supplies were constantly and quickly running out, with locations such as the Hamilton 3 women’s bathroom and Mudd 4 women’s bathroom often out within hours. To get a better idea of daily usage in popular locations, a shorter pilot was conducted for part of October 2017, in which 5 of the most high-traffic bathrooms from the spring study were stocked twice a day–with 16 pads and 16 tampons every 12 hours–to try finding an upper bound of use. On weekdays of this pilot, high-traffic bathrooms, such as the aforementioned, ran out nearly or completely of all items (16 pads and 16 tampons) during the daytime 12-hour interval.

This initiative draws influence from a successful campaign at Brown, where a limb of student government funded and stocked a campus pilot to advocate for free pads/tampons in bathrooms across campus before administrators agreed to assume financial responsibility.

Conversations with respective authority figures following the pilots still focused on concerns that Councils felt were being addressed, including the continued skepticism behind totally-free products in addition to that behind supplying all bathrooms, from women’s to men’s to gender-neutral.

We believe supplying pads and tampons throughout campus is undoubtedly an equity issue. Periods and cycles commonly surprise people, and anyone who bleeds has a set of stories in which they have been unprepared and, likely, compromised by this situation. We want to do all we can to address this discrepancy, starting at least with our own community, here on Columbia’s campus. Sanitary items are already so steeply priced that we firmly disagree with placing another cost on a resource that we see as the bare minimum. We don’t want to set-up those machines where supplies cost. Tampons and pads are already so expensive that it simply makes no sense to charge someone yet again, especially if they’re in an emergency situation blocks away from their dorm, or perhaps in an academic building that’s locked on the outside at that hour and thus leaving to find supplies will forfeit one’s study space. In terms of the all-bathrooms question, we simply affirm our belief that one’s gender identity does not correlate to whether or not they bleed.

In moving forward with this initiative, student councils are asking members of the Columbia community—both individuals and organizations—to sign this form and express the support and gravity this issue holds on our campus. We see supply of these products in a set of public bathrooms throughout campus as the bare minimum. Though we are told financial restraints are the biggest hindrance to this project, we strongly believe that a collection of demonstrated student support will help see the fulfillment of this vision and soon. While councils continue to analyze the concerns of exact logistics, stocking frequency/mechanisms, and launch locations, we want to collect the input of other students to formally capture the care that many in our community hold for this issue. Please sign as you see appropriate.

Current students and alumni from all Columbia schools may sign. We also greatly appreciate Columbia student organizations who agree/vote to sign as a group (in addition to any of their members’ individual signatures). We are happy to visit your club’s meeting to speak and answer any questions in the next several days, in case your organization would like to hear a bit more from us before you think about/vote on signing! We'll be tabling on Lerner ramps later this month, too.

For any questions, comments, or further information, please contact council representatives below.

Aja Johnson CC'21, aij2109@columbia.edu
Danielle Resheff CC'20, dr2886@columbia.edu
Zoha Qamar SEAS'19, zoq2001@columbia.edu

(If you're signing on behalf of your student group, please write the name of the club under "name" and leave other fields blank.)

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