September 18, 2016

Thousands of Students Support Referendum for Free Pads, Tampons

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A controversy over the availability of feminine sanitary products has swept Cornell’s campus in the form of Student Assembly referendum 30. The proposal’s query is simple — “should pads and tampons be available free of charge to students in all bathrooms on campus?”

Bridget Doolittle ’17 brought the measure to the S.A., representing Cornell’s Women’s Resource Center, according to Student Assembly President Jordan Berger ’17. The referendum was introduced a week after Brown University announced that it will supply tampons and sanitary products for free in every gender’s non-residential bathrooms on campus.

“Following the recent initiative at Brown, many people have been wondering, ‘Why doesn’t Cornell follow suit?’” said Matthew Indimine ’18, S.A. executive vice president.

There is “clear” support in favor of providing students on campus with free feminine hygiene products, according to Miranda Kasher ’17, S.A. Women’s Representative.

The referendum received the minimum required 1,500 of signatures — necessary for it to appear on the S.A. ballot — in less than seven hours, with many assembly members advertising the referendum on their Facebook cover photos and sharing the motion online. In total, the petition received 2,356 signatures, with 2,072 signatories verified as current undergraduates, Berger said.

“We are currently in an open comment period,” she said. “Every member of the Cornell community is permitted to submit statements. We have received 569 statements already.”

Like at Brown, the S.A. hopes to offer free tampons and pads in all women’s, men’s and gender-neutral/inclusive bathrooms, according to Kasher.

“The ultimate goal is to provide free feminine hygiene products to Cornell students and to be as inclusive as possible in doing so,” Kasher said.

This referendum is the first in approximately 10 years to receive enough signatures to appear on the S.A. elections ballot, according to Indimine.

“We are so excited to be able to directly engage all students in shared governance,” he said.

In a resolution passed during the 2015-2016 school year, the S.A. modified the referendum process, redefining a referendum to include the student body instead of just the S.A. and changing the number of signatures required for a petition.

These amendments aimed to improve the referendum process, particularly in polling students, and provide students with a simpler procedure for voicing their opinions to the administration, according to Brian Murphy ’16, a staff member at the Office of the Assemblies.

In order for a referendum to appear on the ballot, it must either be approved by S.A. and garner signatures from three percent of the undergraduate population, or must be signed by 10 percent of undergraduates, Murphy said.

When either of these conditions are met, the referendum will appear on the ballot for fall or spring elections, along with names of students running for offices. It is on this ballot that students can vote in support or against the referendum, according to Murphy.

Indimine said the referendum “merely serves as a way of establishing the need, or denouncing the need if it fails, for free tampons and pads in all bathrooms on campus.”

“If passed, this would be one step towards gender equity,” he said.