Despite calendars or tracking apps, sometimes mother nature has other plans in mind. Students can get their period and be without necessary products. Instead of just texting friends for tampons, one JMU student is fighting for accessibility.
Just like the majority of JMU’s female students who experience this situation, Magi Linscott must endure a week of unpleasantness every month — her period. As a member of the female community at JMU, Linscott understands how it feels when there’s an urgent need for menstrual supplies, but they aren’t always readily available.
“Every girl has ruined a chair at least once in their life, or they’re going to ruin a chair,” said Linscott, a public policy and administration and writing, rhetoric and technical communication double major.
Linscott is the initiator of the “Free the Tampon” advocacy. This advocacy is aimed at making menstrual hygiene products more accessible and free across JMU’s campus.
“There is this weird trend of period shaming and, like, this stigma around periods in general, which to me makes absolutely no sense,” Linscott said. “It’s a basic biological process that I don’t think anyone should be ashamed about.”
Linscott noticed that there’s a lack of accessibility to menstrual products on campus, and although there are a couple places that sell them on campus, the prices can be pretty high.
Although the University Health Center provides tampons and pads, the process of getting them is confusing in comparison to getting condoms. Students at the health center have to specifically ask for tampons at the front desk, while condoms are readily accessible to anyone who feels like grabbing them.
“The thing is, we have free condoms for voluntary activity but we don’t have free product for biological accessory,” Linscott said. “I think they should be treated less like some sort of luxury item, and more like hand soap or paper towels.”
According to an email from Eric Kaufmann, a sophomore political science major and a senator for Student Government Association, at the beginning of the fall semester, Linscott approached him and asked for help on making this issue on a bill of opinion. After a semester of preparation and research, SGA recently decided to write a bill of opinion on this issue.
“I think it is an extremely important issue at JMU that hasn’t been discussed before,” Kaufmann said in an email.
Matthew Mueller, president of SGA, responded to the the definition of the bill of opinion.
“The bill of opinion is mainly we as a student government are trying to gauge an issue, and see if there’s enough people on university campus that are interested in this issue enough for us to bring it up to senior administration,” Mueller said.
According to Mueller, in order to pass the bill of opinion, roughly 2,000 students must provide their signature along with a two thirds vote from SGA members, two feats that have already been accomplished by SGA. The next step will be when the president of SGA takes this advocacy to the senior administration and President Alger.
The model JMU is looking at right now is Brown University, which released their new policy last September allowing free tampons and pads in all academic bathrooms across campus, even in the men’s rooms. Linscott brought the issue up to SGA right around the time that Brown released their policy.
However, Brown’s administration couldn’t provide funding to the student government, and so the administration offered SGA an alternative to explore. Therefore, the Free the Tampon action was fully funded by Brown University’s SGA.
Linscott also reached out to various JMU departments, mostly the health center, regarding the issue of making tampons and pads more accessible. The response she got back, however, wasn’t optimistic.
“This problem is exactly what I thought it was,” Linscott said. “I just wasn’t impressed by what they had to say, and I thought that we could do better as a school.”
There are still a lot of contingencies and challenges ahead of this purpose policy.
“I’m hoping, personally, that the freshman class next year can go to bathrooms and walk around campus with these products in place,” Linscott said.
Contact Anthea Liu at email@example.com.