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Free feminine hygiene products will now be placed in locations across Yale and Columbia's campuses

Credit: Emma Boey

Yale and Columbia Universities will now provide free menstrual products in locations across the campuses, as announced by their respective student council bodies. The council bodies’ decisions to make available these products follow those of other universities, including Harvard and Brown. 

The Yale College Council had previously implemented a pilot program that provided disposable menstrual products in two of its residential buildings, the Yale Daily News reported. The success of that program prompted the Council to announce its expansion to all 14 residential buildings.

The University Senate at Columbia plans to target seventeen high-traffic bathrooms in its main Morningside Campus instead of in its residential buildings, The Columbia Spectator reported. The decision used data from pilot programs run by other student and administrative bodies at Columbia in 2016 and 2017 to estimate the cost of the program as about $14,767.

At Penn, student leaders are working to make menstrual products easily accessible as well. The Undergraduate Assembly recently announced it is working to provide products in high-traffic areas like Van Pelt Library, Huntsman Hall, and the college houses. The UA also plans to make menstrual products accessible in gender-neutral spaces as well as try to reduce stigma surrounding menstrual products. 

Both the Penn Women’s Center and Student Health Services currently provide free menstrual products at their offices, and select restrooms across campus have vending machines that sell pads and tampons.

Similar programs have already been initiated in most of the Ivy League. All Harvard dorms since fall 2018 provide free menstrual products, and some Cornell and Brown campus bathrooms also do so, since 2017 and 2016 respectively. Princeton University is also beginning to supply products in select locations on campus.

Most of the Ivy League school programs are student council initiatives, and so the menstrual products are funded by the councils’ operating budgets instead of university administration.

Yale College Council President Saloni Rao said to the Yale Daily News that the Council's pilot program used 10 to 15 percent of the council’s internal endowment. Rao also noted that the expansion of the program required alternative funding sources.

A key part of many of these initiatives has been to stock gender-neutral and male, alongside female, bathrooms with the products. At Princeton, this led to some controversy when the products, along with posters detailing council’s desire to be inclusive of all people who menstruate, were anonymously removed from male bathrooms, The Daily Princetonian reported.