Free menstrual products available in restrooms for occasional use

Students campaigned for increased access to menstrual products. (Photo: Curran Neenan/Washington University)

Menstrual products are now available at no charge in restrooms in some 30 buildings on Washington University in St. Louis’ Danforth Campus. And soon, such products will be available on the Medical Campus. The free products are meant for emergency and occasional use. 

The programs will help meet a basic health need, said Kawanna Leggett, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and co-chair of a committee that studied how and where free menstrual products should be provided. 

Tampons and pads will be available from dispensers in women’s and all-gender bathrooms.

“We heard from students, staff and faculty who have had to miss valuable class or work time because they unexpectedly got their period and had to leave campus for menstrual products,” Leggett said. “By making high-quality products free and readily available, we hope to support our Washington University community.” 

On the Danforth Campus, dispensers are located in all-gender and women’s restrooms. Products also will be placed in men’s restrooms to accommodate menstruating people who identify as male. The program is expected to expand next year.

The School of Medicine will install 19 menstrual product dispensers near lactation rooms and all-gender restrooms. The products will be provided for free; users are asked to take only what they need. Melissa Rockwell-Hopkins, associate vice chancellor for operations and facilities management at the School of Medicine, said the program will become standard across the campus.

“Among the ways we support the School of Medicine’s clinical, teaching and research mission is to support, in all possible ways, the university’s and school’s goals regarding diversity, equity and inclusion,” Rockwell-Hopkins said. “The addition of this program is one more step toward the physical place understanding and meeting the needs of its constituents.” 

Student Union President Ranen Miao, who campaigned for increased access to menstrual products on the Danforth Campus, said the new program benefits students. In the past, some, but not all, schools and units have provided tampons and pads.

“Menstrual equity is central to gender equality on campus,” Miao said. “I believe our campus should be a welcoming place for all students, where our needs are met so we have the space to grow, innovate and learn. This is a step in the right direction, and I am excited to work with Student Union to build on two years of advocacy for the expansion of menstrual products.”

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