Meera Rothman

The Yale College Council last Sunday launched a pilot program to provide free menstrual hygiene products in Morse and Silliman colleges. And while only a week’s worth of data has been collected so far, there appears to be demonstrated student interested in the initiative, according to YCC organizers.

Over the past week, 472 provided products have been used in Silliman College, and 194 in Morse College. Demand was initially slow, but students have shown increased interest over the course of this past week, said Samir Al-Ali ’21, who is overseeing the initiative’s launch in Silliman College. In the next few weeks, the YCC intends to introduce the pilot program in Berkeley College, as well.

“Anecdotally, I’ve gotten a lot of people really appreciating the fact that these are more available now,” Al-Ali said. “The interest is definitely showing in the numbers.”

The YCC initiated the pilot program after a January report by the council found that, according to a Fall 2017 YCC survey, 46.4 percent of students who bought menstrual hygiene products said the purchase presented a degree of financial burden. Of the relevant respondents, 78 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they would use free menstrual hygiene products if provided.

In response, the YCC launched the pilot program using its own funding, in an effort to demonstrate student demand and interest. After the program concludes in a month, the organization will discuss the collected data with the University administration in an effort to have the initiative maintained by Yale’s resources.

At the moment, both participating residential colleges stock the products in three locations, each of which is accessible only to students in the college. Each of the sites — which include laundry rooms and basements — contains a basket of menstrual hygiene products, consisting of daytime pads, night-time pads, liners, regular tampons and super-absorbent tampons.

“We have a set number of each type of product in each location,” explained Heidi Dong ’20, the YCC’s university services director and vice president elect. “So, each time someone goes to restock, they count how many are present, and then restock to that set number.”

While students involved with the program initially restocked each basket in Morse every day — and twice a day in Silliman — to match potential demand, Dong explained that the YCC will probably “scale that back a little bit” after assessing the data.

Both Al-Ali and Dong said they were unsure why the demand for the products in Silliman is more than twice as high as in Morse.

“We’re going to keep doing the pilot for the rest of the month, hopefully advertise a bit more in both colleges, and maybe the numbers will even out,” Al-Ali said. “We’ll have to see.”

Student interest in the program appears to be high, with non-YCC affiliated students also choosing to volunteer their services.

Olivia Shoemaker ’21, a student in Silliman, said she volunteered to help with the restocking process after receiving an email explaining the details of the pilot program in Silliman.

“Tampons can be expensive, so I was very excited about the possibility of accessing menstrual products for free,” Shoemaker said to the News. “Along with the YCC pioneers of the project, I’ve been keeping data on how many products are being used a day. While it’s hard to conclude the exact numbers because it’s just started, it’s already evident students are taking the products, which is great.”

Morse students said they are similarly excited about the program.

Willow Sylvester, a first year in Morse, described the program as “such a good idea,” but also expressed concern that the product baskets might end up like some of the bags of free condoms in residential colleges, which Sylvester said are “just always empty.”

Stephanie Malta ’21, another student in Morse, said that while she has not yet seen the products, she thinks the initiative is a good idea.

“Historically, Yale has been a male-dominated place,” Malta said. “We don’t think about it but there are still reminders all around us, especially in older buildings like [Leet Oliver Memorial Hall] where you have to go to the third floor to get to the women’s bathroom. So I’m honestly all for the YCC’s initiative.”

Aakshi Chaba | aakshi.chaba@yale.edu