The University’s Department of Facilities Management will oversee Project Tampon, a program to distribute free menstrual products in bathrooms on campus, wrote Paul Armas, assistant vice president of facilities operations, in an email to The Herald.
Armas’ confirmation follows a long-term effort by the Undergraduate Council of Students to have the University take charge of the Council’s flagship initiative. When UCS began stocking some non-residential men’s, women’s and gender-inclusive restrooms on campus with free tampons and pads in September 2016, then-UCS President Viet Nguyen ’17 told the Washington Post that he hoped the program would become “an institutional part of Brown.”
Facilities Management’s update comes after UCS President Shanzé Tahir ’19 and Vice President Camila Pelsinger ’20 wrote in a Nov. 6 email to the student body that “UCS is continuing work to institutionalize Project Tampon.” UCS now considers Project Tampon to be under the purview of Facilities Management after the department confirmed the transition to Tahir Nov. 8.
“UCS can have ongoing conversations with Facilities as needed, but … the whole initiative is within Facilities’ domain now,” Tahir said. UCS “is really happy that Facilities has confirmed and agreed to take over the initiative. There’s been a lot of work put in by the students of UCS over these past few years, so we’re excited that it’s being institutionalized.”
Currently, “all existing hygiene product dispensers in restrooms” are free to use, Armas wrote. These products were made free in 32 buildings on campus in late September and October, wrote Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark in an email to The Herald.
Gender-inclusive restrooms in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center and Page-Robinson Hall and women’s restrooms that do not currently have hygiene product dispensers will be equipped with them, Armas wrote. Armas did not provide a timeline for the installation of those dispensers.
Two restrooms on the third floor of the Rockefeller Library are slated to be renovated over winter break. As part of the renovation, they will be designated gender-inclusive and offer free product dispensers, Armas wrote.
A gender-inclusive restroom equipped with a dispenser will also be constructed on Level A of the Rock this summer, Armas added.
Project Tampon’s transfer to Facilities Management follows months of mixed messages from the University and UCS leadership about the initiative’s future.
After distributing free tampons and pads to around 40 bathrooms in the 2016-17 academic year and 52 bathrooms in fall 2018, UCS halted distribution efforts last spring without notifying the student body, The Herald previously reported.
Former UCS President Chelse-Amoy Steele ’18 told The Herald in April that UCS was working toward institutionalizing Project Tampon — a goal she mentioned at the first UCS general body meeting of her presidency in September 2017.
Steele then announced in a June 1 email to the general body that she had “worked with Brown University Facilities (Management) on an implementation plan for Project Tampon that will start in the fall of 2018.”
But, as of Sept. 17, the University would not confirm any plans to implement Project Tampon. Though there was “still a possibility” of Facilities Management taking over, “no plan to administer the initiative that UCS launched” had been adopted, Clark wrote in response to an inquiry from The Herald.
Brown joins peer schools in institutionalizing the distribution of free menstrual products. Harvard began providing free tampons and pads in residential buildings this semester after two years of work by its undergraduate student government and a menstrual hygiene advocacy group. Yale’s student government launched a distribution initiative last spring, with the hope that the university will eventually take over.
Brown institutionalizing Project Tampon “is hopefully a step that can inspire other universities … to also take on this initiative,” Tahir said.