TCU Senate establishes trial program to provide free feminine hygiene products in public restrooms on campus

TCU now provides free feminine hygiene products in public bathrooms. A set of these products are pictured in the Campus Center on March 9. Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily

Students were introduced to a Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate pilot project last week to provide free feminine hygiene products for emergency use in public bathrooms around campus. The hygiene products, currently stocked in multiple campus bathrooms, include tampons and pads bought in bulk with funds from Health and Wellness Services.

Walae Hayek, the TCU Senate’s Women’s Center community representative and TCU Senator Ariel Barbieri-Aghib have spearheaded this initiative based on their project proposal, which passed in November. According to Hayek, the two senators, both sophomores, worked together to establish this initiative based on similar projects on other college campuses across the country, including the University of Minnesota and Carnegie Mellon University.

Hayek explained that most similar programs from other campuses were inspired by these universities’ respective women’s centers. The Women’s Center at Tufts underscored the budgetary concerns with regard to the project, she said.

“The Women’s Center has tampons and pads, but they also come out from the Women’s Center budget, which is not feasible to accommodate the whole campus,” Hayek said.

Hayek and Barbieri-Aghib continued to seek support from groups on campus and companies offering scholarships for campus projects. Although they did not qualify for company scholarships, the TCU senators found support to buy hygiene supplies at the Health and Wellness Services.

Accordingly, Hayek said that the two senators worked with Senior Director of Health and Wellness Services Michelle Bowdler to establish a trial program for the semester, while they work to acquire funding from other sources in the university or through sponsorships from external organizations.

“The cost for Health [Service] is actually very small because we can buy in bulk,” Bowdler said. “[The pilot project] really is a health need for students who find themselves unaware and in need of one or two items.”

Hayek explained that the buildings chosen to house these supplies were selected after much consideration.

Supplies have been stocked in the Campus Center, the Tisch Library, the gymnasium and both dining halls, though the plan is expected to expand to buildings such as Dowling Hall and the residence halls, subject to budget restrictions, Hayek said.

“They’re spread out enough around campus where anywhere in between you can just go to one of these places if you need one,” she said.

Currently the supplies are being refilled by TCU senators who volunteer to take supplies and bring them to buildings that need restocking.

“We have a log-in in the TCU Senate office where all the senators can sign up and write how many they’re taking and where they’re going to fill them,” Hayek said.

She added that the senators are working to make the overall process more efficient, and that they hope to gain the necessary funds to purchase dispensers for the bathrooms in which supplies are currently being stocked. The senators have also discussed checking with the janitorial staff to see if refilling these dispensers could be added to the regular bathroom maintenance, Hayek said.

Although the trial program is in its infancy, Hayek has high hopes for the future of the project based on the positive responses it has received so far.

“Hopefully, within the next couple of years this will become a sustainable, sufficient way of distributing pads and tampons across campus,” Hayek said.

Hayek added that the program not only aims to help women, but to also to help those of all gender identities who find themselves in need of these hygiene products.

“It was kind of [based] from the principle that basic needs should be accommodated, and this is one way to do that around campus,” she said.