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Cornell University now provides free menstrual products in men’s bathrooms

‘Not all people who menstruate are women,’ said student activist

Male and female students at Cornell University started the school year with free access to menstrual products due to the activism of a student group.

The Gender Justice Advocacy Coalition at the Ivy League school led the movement toward accessibility to period products on campus, according to campus paper The Cornell Daily Sun. (The student paper inaccurately called it the “Gender Justice Advocacy Center”).

GJAC did not respond to a Facebook message from The College Fix seeking comment in the past week.

“We wanted to make access to the products as equitable as possible and have them present in all bathrooms, as not all people who menstruate are women,” graduate student Liz Davis-Frost explained to The Sun.

She is the former president of Gender Justice Advocacy Coalition.

According to Davis-Frost, people spend about $18,000 on menstrual products over their lifetime.

Huffington Post analysis puts the number around $18,000 but that includes $11,000 for birth control. Other estimates put the number at $6,360.

Davis-Frost did not respond to a Facebook message this week from The College Fix asking for clarification on why the products are available in the men’s bathrooms and any future projects planned.

Elise Czuchna, an alumna, first started the effort. She told The Fix via Facebook messaging that she would provide a comment but did not follow through.

MORE: Oregon State offers menstrual products to men

Cornell joins Ivy League peer Harvard University in providing free menstrual products in not only women’s bathrooms, but men’s as well.

The push for free period products was also supported by Women’s Resource Center, Building Care and Facilities, and the Student Assembly Infrastructure Fund Committee, the student paper reported.

The project was supposed to “address issues of equity and accessibility in the framework of gender inequality,” according to The Sun.

The coalition “was formerly known as the Women’s Resource Center Executive Board,” according to its Fall 2020 application.

It created a separate organization to meet a “deep commitment to intersectional feminism and inclusive programming that meets the needs of womxn-identifying and non-binary students at Cornell.”

The Women’s Resource Center did not respond to an emailed request or a Facebook message in the past several days seeking comment from The Fix on the placement of menstrual products in men’s bathrooms.

Cornell’s media relations office did not respond to multiple emailed requests in the past week seeking more specifics on the funding of the program and the placement of the products in men’s bathrooms.

The program is currently funded by the university, but there is concern over the longevity of it. Davis-Frost told The Sun that her hope is that Cornell sees the initiative as “essential and necessary for menstruators.”

“These conversations and realities are not new to many communities and folks within gender activist areas.”

In 2016, Cornell students led a #FreeTheTampons initiative.

“Students voted to have the menstrual products offered in both women’s and men’s restrooms on campus to be inclusive of transgender people,” according to The Daily Mail.

Cornell is not the first university to offer free menstrual products to students of both genders.

Fix review in 2019 found that the University of Arkansas was exploring how to implement a program, as was the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University.

In December, the American Civil Liberties Union called for menstruation products in both men and women’s bathrooms in an article exploring sex discrimination.

“While free menstrual products are not uniformly provided in women’s restrooms, they are almost never available in men’s restrooms,” the legal nonprofit group said.

“Men’s restrooms are also less likely to have a place to dispose of these products conveniently, privately, and hygienically.”

MORE: Amherst College offers free menstrual products for ‘students who menstruate’

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About the Author
Hayley Tschetter - University of Northwestern - St. Paul