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The modern unicorn: The quest for period products on campus

Scouring Camperdown campus for affordable tampons.

Art by Ella Kennedy.

One fateful Tuesday, sitting in the Law Library, I slid my hand into the front pocket of my backpack in search of a pad. Unable to find one, I rummaged a little more aggressively, diving through pens and old post-it notes, the rattling sound echoing through the Law Library’s judgemental silence.

 At this moment I was confronted with the memory of a neat pile of pads sitting smugly atop my bedroom duvet.

 Realising the direness of the situation, I sped out of the library. Finding my way through the labyrinth of the New Law Building, I frantically googled ‘where to find pads on USyd campus,’ finding only academic studies and an SRC article about free pads from 2014.

 Giving up hope, I prepared myself for the perilous walk to Broadway. Suddenly, I remembered the USyd store in the Jane Foss Russell building and motored down Eastern Avenue. And there they were, in all their glory, sitting on the shelf beside a pack of Carefree tampons — a fourteen pack of Stayfree Regular pads. And a price-tag. $9.95.

 Infuriated but desperate, I took them to the counter, pressing my card to the PayPass with bittersweet relief. I couldn’t help thinking: were these really the only pads on campus?

Later that week I set out on an investigation across campus, determined to check every single retail outlet I could find for pads, tampons, and their prices. And in total, I found three – yes, literally, only three – shops where you can buy pads and tampons on campus and one student space where you can find them for free.

1. The Union Pharmacy in the Wentworth Building

 The cheapest place to buy period products on campus! Each product had one standard price regardless of brand or type. Sanitary pads were $6.50, tampons were $6.00 and liners were $4.50.

 However, the chemist is a little harder to get to, being inside the Wentworth building and pretty far away from most classes.

2. The USyd Store in the Jane Foss Russell Building

 In the time since my desperate cross-campus pad search, this store did not update its range, still only offering the Stayfree fourteen pack for $9.95 — more than double its price at Coles ($4.50).

 They also have one tampon option – a Carefree sixteen pack – for $8.95.

 It’s very close to the chemist, so if you’re making your way here may be worth heading inside to the chemist’s lower prices instead.

3.‘Footbridge Station’ in the Holme Building

 The final retail location for pads and tampons on campus. While they have a little more range than the Jane Foss Russell USyd store, the pads are still $9.95 and tampons $8.95.

 Unfortunately, if you’re on the Parramatta Road side of the Camperdown campus, this is your only option if you need period products in a hurry.

 Otherwise, it’s an eleven-minute walk to the chemist or the other USyd store – which is the same amount of time it takes to get to Broadway Shopping Centre with its Coles and normal prices, so you may as well go there. 

There’s also a tampon and pad dispenser in the outdoor female toilets at Courtyard Café beside Footbridge station – the only dispenser I found on campus. However, it’ll cost you $3 for a two-pack of pads or tampons and only takes $1 or $2 coins.

4. The Wom*n’s Space in the Manning Building

Inside the Wom*n’s Space on Level 1 of Manning Building there is a white box filled with tampons that are free for students to take. 

I returned from my investigation demoralised. I had hoped I would quell the rage from my Tuesday in the Law Library by discovering a range of places to find more affordable period products on campus, which I could compile into a nifty article for future students rapidly google searching.

 Instead, I discovered the university’s completely unsatisfactory options to students in need of period products on campus.

When contacted for comment, the USU – who run the USyd stores – responded stating they stock “a very limited range of feminine hygiene products” that are “basically kept in stock as a service to students for convenience or ‘emergency situations.” They explained that “due to our very low sales volumes and wholesale purchase arrangements, our retail prices are higher than what customers would typically pay at retail pharmacies or supermarkets.” 

“Whilst all profits from USU operations go back into the student experience, we recognise that there is a price difference and USU management are prepared to undertake a review of our purchasing and pricing arrangements for these products.” Not sure why charging menstruating students double on essential items to pay for ‘the student experience’ is even slightly justifiable, but you do USU I guess.

As a university with more than 60,000 students, having easily accessible, affordable period products on campus should be seen as a necessity. That could mean making pads accessible in all bathrooms, adding pads and tampons to vending machines or at the very least, changing the price of pads and tampons in USyd stores.

 Until USyd provides better options for menstruating students, many of us are doomed to repeat my anxious cross-campus hunt for pads. But hopefully, this list can at least save one future google-searcher’s time in their hunt for period products on campus and help them feel less alone in their frustration.

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