The University of Iowa now offers free menstrual products in all residence halls, free of charge to all students, faculty, and staff. Associated Residence Halls (ARH) is sponsoring the effort and is planning, funding, and implementing it.
The two-year long process of offering menstrual products started last year. Although the idea had been brought up a year before, it took a while for ARH to find funding for it. In Fall 2019, the idea of putting menstrual products was brought up again by ARH’s diversity committee.
The first hurdle was deciding where to place the products. “Many students in our halls who require access to menstrual products would not have benefited had we simply put these in our women’s restrooms and as such, the front desks were an easy way to be as inclusive as possible,” says Spencer Owen, current ARH Executive Director.
Next, they had to find funding and where to source the products. Leandra Jenkins, the Coordinator for Leadership and advisor of ARH, found the Aunt Flow company. Their mission is to help places such as schools and offices provide free menstrual products. By using Aunt Flow, ARH was able to use their own budget to provide products, without having to search for an outside source.
The final step was getting products into the hands of students. ARH set up boxes of menstrual products at each residence hall front desk, stocked with both pads and tampons. Products are all free of charge and available to any student, no questions asked.
The University of Iowa is one of the few Big 10 Universities that offer free menstrual products to all students, and is unique in the fact that they are placed in residence halls, as opposed to restrooms.
“I think it is important to educate ourselves on this stuff, periods are not something we should be pretending doesn’t exist, nor should we just ignore the fact that they are not exactly the most affordable items in the world. Easy access to free menstrual products is not a privilege, it is a need and a necessity for us to offer it to our students and I am immensely proud of our organization for providing it to our students,” says Owen.