Tampons coming to men's rooms at Brown University
Brown University's student body president will be hand-delivering menstrual products to all nonresidential bathrooms on campus, including men’s rooms, with the help of 20 other students.
Viet Nguyen, President of the Undergraduate Council of Students, announced the initiative in a campus-wide email Tuesday, saying he wants to communicate the message that not all people who menstruate are women, according to Newsweek.
“There’s been a lot of conversation about why pads and tampons are a necessity, not a luxury, but not a lot of action. We wanted to take it into our own hands,” Nguyen explains in the email, observing that “low-income students struggle with having the necessary funding for food, let alone tampons.”
By putting menstrual products in women’s, men’s, and gender-inclusive bathrooms, Nguyen aims to “set a tone of trans-inclusivity, and not forget that they’re an important part of the population,” but is under no illusions that the effort will be universally popular.
“I’d be naïve to say there won’t be push back,” he preemptively concedes. “I’ve had questions about why we’re implementing this in male bathrooms as well. It’s an initial confusion, but people generally understand when we explain it.”
Nguyen told Newsweek that menstrual products will be available in approximately 30 to 40 bathrooms across campus for the 2016–2017 school year, financed exclusively by the undergraduate finance board, rather than general university funds.
“Why aren’t these products treated the same way as other products we hand out, like toilet paper?” he pondered in an interview with The Guardian. “It’s a necessity, rather than a luxury, so Brown and other universities should treat them as such.”
“Feminine hygiene products are not a luxury. They’re as essential as toilet paper; just ask anyone who has ever struggled to obtain or afford them,” agreed Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. “Students’ participation in school should not be hindered by insufficient access to this basic necessity. Universities around the country should follow suit.”
Yuzuka Alaska, a junior at Brown, opined that menstruation is currently a “taboo,” but speculated that “if we can implement this project, that will add to this conversation and make it more of an accessible topic.”
UPDATE: Brian Clark, Brown's Director of News and Editorial Development, praised the students for their "tremendous initiative" in a statement to Campus Reform, saying the school will look forward to observing the results.
"In efforts to work with and support their peers, leaders from the Undergraduate Council of Students take on a number of student-focused efforts each year," he said, clarifying that "these are student-led and independent of the university administration, although we recognize that many important resources on campus today were first idenitified and advocated for by students themselves.
"We expect that UCS will continue to solicit feedback on this new initiative and collect data on the use of these products," he concluded, saying the administration "will be interested to learn what they find as they assess the effectiveness of the program moving forward."
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