Madison Lecowitch, Contributing Writer
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.