Madison Lecowitch, Contributing Writer
Photo depicts left to right, Colby Stevens and Emilee Eustis surrounded by tampons in the Free the T office. (Photo courtesy of Madison Lecowitch)
Free the T, a student led initiative, aims to provide free tampons to UMF students, while promoting women’s health and providing professional development opportunities. There are now tampons available in 40 different bathrooms around campus, in both female and gender neutral bathrooms.
“We offer the free tampons in the containers in the bathrooms and then we also do tabling during commontime, Monday through Friday, so that’s another way students can access free tampons that are in bags,” said Assistant Professor of Community Health Education, Katie Callahan-Myrick, advisor of Free the T.
Callahan-Myrick knows that Free the T is in many ways beneficial to the UMF community. “When the students showed interest, it all focused around the idea of period poverty. Tampons are expensive, about $6-$7 per box per month, and students don’t have a lot of money and are living paycheck to paycheck anyways,” said Callahan-Myrick. “I would also like to think that it alleviates emergency stress for when things happen that are unexpected.”
Callahan-Myrick has been with the project since the Fall 2017 and has seen the hard work put into the program. “It has been a collaborative effort across the campus, and it’s just amazing to see the support we have had,” said Callahan-Myrick, “We have had help from the Campus Residence Council, and from faculty on campus. We’ve also had help from Student Senate and Student Life… They’ve helped us with containers, laminating and all of the things we needed to get to where we are at this point.”.
The project began two years ago, when a group of students heard about Free the Tampons, a worldwide initiative to help women who have less access to necessary resources, and decided that they wanted to see the program benefit students at UMF. They worked with Proctor & Gamble in Auburn, who provided a donation of 33,369 tampons.
Emilee Eustis, a junior double majoring in Community Health and Rehabilitation, understands the impact that Free the T has on many students across campus. “Having to buy feminine hygiene products is annoying and something I have to budget out each month,” Eustis said. “[Through Free the T] You get to learn about sustainability, partnerships and advocacy which is so important, especially in today’s society.”
Libby Shanahan, a junior Psychology major and Art minor, believes that the project is a step in the right direction. “I think that this sort of program is long overdue for UMF,” said Shanahan. “We really pride ourselves on being progressive, so it’s nice to see that people are rallying behind the movement.”
Shanahan understands the struggle of forgetting feminine hygiene products. “There have been plenty of times throughout the semester where I found myself without a tampon. It can be uncomfortable to ask for one in class, especially if there isn’t someone who you’re semi-familiar with,” Shanahan said. “Its takes the pressure off, and saves you from what sometimes can be an awkward conversation.”
Callahan-Myrick realizes that not everyone uses tampons. “We would love to expand to pads, but at this point we don’t have the resources to be able to,” said Callahan-Myrick. “I anticipate we have enough tampons for the next two years and so that gives us a little bit of a breathing room. I’m hoping that Proctor & Gamble will be willing to work with us in the future once we show them all the good and awesome things this program has done.”
Callahan-Myrick strongly believes that the project isn’t just about free tampons. “There’s a lot more to it than that. There is also the student opportunities [for those] who want to volunteer and work,” said Callahan-Myrick. “There’s professional development for any student who’s interested in health promotion programming— or nice volunteer activities— anything in terms of advocating for women’s health, or access for populations that don’t have access to resources.”
If anyone is interested in joining Free The T you can email Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can be followed on Facebook at, UMF Free the T Project.
The UMF Health Club and health classes aimed to show students that managing stress and health is important for success (Photo by Gina Schultz)
By Allison Jarvis, Contributing Writer
The Health Club recently put together an event in the student center called “Chillin’ and Grillin’,” aiming to educate the students and promote ways to make healthy choices in four areas: Physical health, nutritional health, sexual health, and mental health. Each section had tables with different games, activities, quizzes, displays, and pamphlets for students to take.
The Health Club teamed up with students in two health classes to make this event possible. “The long term goal is to change the behavior of students by informing them how to better manage their stress, have a positive sexual health behavior, better nutritional diet, and become more physically active,” said Jamie Dillion, the vice president of the Health Club, via email interview. “It is to promote overall health.”
The games and events acted as an effective stress reliever for finals week. “It was not intended to be this late in the semester but it has worked out nicely as this is when students’ stress levels heighten,” said Colby Stevens, a senior who helped with the mental health portion of the event. “Through this program, we hope to teach students how to effectively manage their stress.”
Justin Davis wearing a “Captain Condom” costume (Photo by Gina Schultz)
Free hot dogs and hamburgers were served outside the Student Center and more healthy food was offered in the Landing. There were two games set up for students to show how much sugar is in popular snacks and compare prices between healthy and unhealthy choices.
“There are not a lot of healthy options in college for food and students tend to struggle with eating healthy,” said Norma Williams, a senior and community health education major.
The mental health portion of the event was also hosted in the Landing, including activities like yoga, coloring, and making stress balls. The students of the Health Club find it vitally important for everyone, college students especially, to manage their stress and maintain their mental health, which is often overlooked socially.
Katie Callahan, the health professor and Health Club faculty sponsor who helped oversee this event, believes very firmly in the importance of stress management. “College students have a lot to balance, and that is incredibly difficult,” said Callahan. “Many times, self-care is the first thing that can be pushed aside because it doesn’t come with a ‘deadline.’”
All of the activities offered were chosen so students could feel like they can afford it and have time for it. Pamphlets were handed out with stress management strategies that students can practice at home.
The students running the physical health section had a number of games to play including Twister and Just Dance. One table ran a “Diabetes: Fact vs Myth” Kahoot! trivia game for students to try. If a question was answered incorrectly, the student had to spin the wheel of exercise and do a quick session of jumping jacks, squats, or pushups. The health students always did the exercising with them so no one felt embarrassed.
The students running the sexual health section arranged a small display with a colorful banner hung above the table that read “Let’s talk about sex, baby!” The table was decked with presentation boards providing facts about how to have healthy sex and prevent unwanted pregnancies and diseases. On the table were several products such as birth control, condoms, and even a few sex toys. Students were tested to see if they knew how to put a diaper on a baby doll, or how to properly put on a condom by using a squirt gun made to look like a penis.
To make the subject of sex ed more lighthearted, health student Justin Davis volunteered to come dressed as a condom-themed superhero. He stood at the display, answered students’ questions, and walked around the room tossing packaged condoms at other students.
Dillion spoke about the reasoning behind the outfit. “[It was] definitely an excuse to put our peer in a condom costume,” said Dillion. “Maybe that was not the main reason, but it was definitely a deciding factor. The idea of the condom costume is to draw people in and show how sexual health can be safe and fun!”
Callahan and her students hope that their community not only had a good time but that they felt better prepared for finals week and can take some knowledge with them in the future. “It is in hopes that the students are able to better manage their stress so that they have a higher chance of success and end the year strong!” said Dillion. “Whatever follows them afterward, it would be beneficial for them to have these skills in times of need.” The Health Club hopes to host this event again next year with the same amount of success.