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Student-run trial will gauge usage of free menstrual products

The Campus Operations Working Group (COW-G) hopes to conduct a student-run trial of providing menstrual products in public restrooms around campus during the month of April, according to the chair of COW-G, Aaron Finkel ’20.

Finkel has reached out to multiple clubs and organizations on campus in support of the initiative, including the Feminist Majority League Association (FMLA) and Brandeis Students for Reproductive Justice (BSRJ). He is working closely with BSRJ because they proposed the initiative. He will be discussing the technicalities of the plan with Student Sexuality Information Service (SSIS) on Friday, March 17.

“The plan is to conduct the test run before the completion of the semester—most likely during the month of April—and we are doing so at the request of administration. The end goal of our trial, if successful, is to request permanent funding from the administration, and they only agreed to consider it if we conducted a student-run trial, without any assistance from Facilities, or administrators,” Finkel wrote in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.

Finkel could not give specific details about the plan. He would not comment on how many pads and tampons would be placed in which bathrooms. In a Hoot survey that received 144 responses last semester, some students criticized the fact that only cardboard applicators were available in dispensers on campus. Finkel has not discussed what brands the products will be.

The Hoot reached out to Jim Gray, the vice president for campus operations, for comment on the administration’s role in the initiative. He did not give comment as of press time.

On Sept. 23 of last year, an opinions writer for The Hoot argued that Brandeis should provide free menstrual products in bathrooms around campus. The article drew on a national conversation about the accessibility of menstrual products. Gray pushed back on the idea, wanting to see student body support for the initiative. Then-Chair of COW-G Shaquan McDowell ’18 spoke with Gray and began to determine the level of support for the initiative.

About two months later, several groups on campus published a joint statement of progress in The Hoot. The groups included BSRJ, FMLA, COW-G and the Senate Social Justice and Diversity Committee. They created a survey to ask about the availability, accessibility and quality of products in menstrual product dispensers around campus. The survey yielded 455 responses. The groups determined that “the quality of products available, inconsistent pricing and availability and financial insecurity were all factors that students cited as inhibiting them from getting the care they needed during menstruation.”

When discussing the initiative, members of the Brandeis community turned to students at Brown University for guidance. Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) maintains a menstrual product initiative. The council funds the purchase of sanitary napkins and tampons and oversees restocking. The products are placed in baskets in most of the public restrooms on campus.

The frequency of restocking has changed since The Hoot last published an article on Oct. 21. Brown undergraduate council members place 10 pads and 10 tampons in men’s and women’s restrooms on Sundays. However, they have added a second round of restocking on Wednesdays for bathrooms around the central part of campus.

These bathrooms receive higher foot traffic than others, according to Molly Naylor-Komyatte, the UCS chief of staff. She added that there has not been any reported abuse of the resource. Concern over abuse was originally cited as a reason to not proceed with the initiative at Brandeis.

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