Beyond the Hill

Brown University begins providing free tampons and pads in trans-inclusive move

Delaney Kuric | Head Illustrator

Brown's initiative to provide free tampons in campus bathrooms reflects a growing trend in addressing issues associated with transgender people and has been replicated at other universities.

Brown University is now among the first institutions in the country to provide free tampons and pads in campus bathrooms.

The initiative reflects a growing trend in addressing issues associated with transgender people and has been replicated at other universities.

Viet Nguyen, president of Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students, said inspiration for the initiative derived from New York City public schools’ movement toward providing free menstrual products and eliminating tampon taxes.

“We saw a lot of conversation going on in the higher-ed realm, but not a lot of action,” Nguyen said. “People were writing op-eds on why it was an issue, but there was no concrete action playing out. So we thought we could be the tipping point that moves this conversation to action.”

Molly Naylor-Komyatte, chief of staff on Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students, said launching this kind of initiative at the university would make it one of the first schools on “such a large scale.”

Columbia University provides free pads and tampons through its health services, but not in all bathrooms across campus.

Syracuse University’s Student Association President Eric Evangelista said he foresees the possibility of SU implementing a measure to provide free menstrual products for students. This would be a multi-step process, but not challenging, he said.

SA’s Student Life chairs, Keelan Erhard and Anjani Ladhar, have already started going through the logistics of the financial costs and implementation with campus officials, Evangelista said.

SU’s first step toward implementation would be placing menstrual products in women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms in residence halls, then moving to putting products in women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms in academic buildings before finally expanding to men’s rooms for transgender and gender-nonconforming inclusivity, Evangelista said.

“We are working as we speak to get it implemented,” he said.

The initiative at Brown will be paid for by its Undergraduate Finances Board, a student-run organization that funds all of the student groups on campus.

The conversation started at the university back in April 2016 and continued into the summer when it came to working out how and when to launch the initiative, Nguyen said. Naylor-Komyatte and Nguyen worked closely to decide how to roll out the launch, which vendors the school should use and which kinds of products to offer.

Menstrual products will not only be offered in women’s bathrooms at Brown. The products will be available in all facilities, including men’s bathrooms. This is to also provide products to transgender students who are in the midst of transition as well as to provide products to all people going through menstruation on campus.

“Being one of the first schools to have this initiative, we wanted to be very trans-inclusive going forward,” Nguyen said. “We realized that not all people who identify as women menstruate and also people who don’t identify as women menstruate.”

Nguyen and Naylor-Komyatte said they hope that this move will spark a larger movement across the country.

“We wanted to make this project an initiative that moved the conversation even further forward,” Naylor-Komyatte said.

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