Student Government Senator Fights for Free Menstrual Products on Campus
By Nina Mendes
News & Features Editor
Tara Nichols doesn’t see herself as an advocate for change but rather a champion for accessibility.
Serving as a Student Government Senator for the College of Arts & Science and the Vice-Chair for Special Allocations, Nichols uses her platform to promote inclusivity on campus.
She’s spent the last year conducting research and managing community outreach projects to provide free menstrual products in bathrooms at FGCU.
“Access to necessary [feminine hygiene] products is not a privilege; it is a right,” Nichols said. “I believe it’s time we start treating it that way. I am hopeful that a project like this will allow for more comfort when talking about a natural bodily function like menstruation.”
When proposing her idea to Student Government, Nichols received some pushback from students who felt there was no need for this project.
Their skepticism drove Nichols to collect more data, and the numbers reflected a significant need for assistance.
78.6% of students that filled out Nichols’ survey had used alternatives, like toilet paper and paper towels, as makeshift pads because they were on campus when their menstrual cycle started unexpectedly.
Citing the same survey, 96.4% of students said they would like to see complimentary menstrual product dispensers at the university.
Haley White is the Student Government Director of Communication & Marketing and believes this project will help break the stigma behind periods.
“It is important that FGCU offers free menstrual products on campus because it educates students that feminine products are considered medical necessities,” White said. “It will also help alleviate the economic strain that menstrual cycles come with.”
Nichols partnered with a company called Aunt Flow, which fights against period poverty, to bring these product dispensers to the university.
Student Government has been working with Nichols since the fall semester and debuted the first on-campus dispenser last month.
The FGCU Resident Housing Association also helped provide funding for portions of the project.
There are currently three dispensers total, with one located in the Cohen Student Union and two in South Village (SoVi).
“People who have periods don’t always have access to period products,” freshman Alison Woodruff, a SoVi resident, said. “Free menstrual products can have a very positive impact on the university, with both providing to those who need them and normalizing the use of them.”
These three dispensers are only the beginning, as Nichols plans to eventually have them installed in bathrooms across campus.
She believes providing accessible feminine hygiene products will benefit students’ well-being and positively impact the quality of their college experience.
“Sometimes change can be an exhausting task,” Nichols said. “I hope [this project] encourages discourse about the hardships our students face but don’t talk about. If we don’t fight for the things we believe in, do we truly believe in change?”