The Undergraduate Student Government launched a free menstrual product pilot program on Dec. 4 in Frist Campus Center. The program will run until Dec. 16 and aims to address issues of accessibility and financial hardships associated with menstrual products. The program has involved placing one basket of courtesy tampons and pads in each of the nine bathrooms in Frist: four women’s, four men’s, and one gender-neutral.
“USG works on different projects every year, and we choose those projects based on feedback from students,” Cailin Hong ’17 said. Hong, a Class of 2017 senator, is leading the initiative with U-Councilor Wendy Zhao ’19.
As Hong explained, USG launched the program to “get the conversation [regarding freeing menstrual products] started.” Hong added that USG hopes this program is taken up by the University administration.
“It’s also a conversation that’s happening on a lot of other campuses,” Zhao added.
Zhao and Hong spoke with student government leaders from other universities who have been successful in implementing similar projects on campuses including Brown, Cornell, and Columbia. Response data from pilot programs appeared to be what prompted administrative support at those other institutions, Zhao noted.
Hong added that multiple conversations conducted with Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun, University Health Services, University Facilities, and others who would be responsible for continuing a long-term, free menstrual products project reinforced the need for this pilot program. “We will take the data to the Office of Campus Life and Vice President Calhoun in the next semester,” Hong explained .
That data will include feedback from a USG anonymous survey as well as information about how many products students actually use, based on numbers collected at the end of each day by USG members.
“I'm thrilled that USG is moving in the right direction with the tampons and pads in Frist and I hope that this test run gets the positive feedback necessary to further such access elsewhere on campus,” Nate Lambert ’20 said.
Lambert is a recently elected Class of 2020 senator with a call for free menstrual products as part of his campaign platform.
Hong explained that the pilot program has so far received positive feedback.
“We’ve already gotten close to 700 responses, mostly good,” she said.
However, Hong shared that conflicting evidence has turned up in the form of some tampering with the products in the men’s restroom.
“After the first week we realized that these baskets in the [men’s] restrooms were being taken or thrown out,” Hong explained.
Initially, USG members thought that there was some confusion about why the products were in the men’s restroom, according to Hong. She noted that USG received reports that it wasn't the Frist custodial staff who removed the products from the men's bathroom. They added a poster to the baskets in those restrooms clarifying the project committee’s desire to be inclusive of all people on Princeton’s campus who menstruate.
“But even that is being removed,” Hong said. “We want people to be comfortable having a period, and if seeing tampons in a men's restroom makes you that uncomfortable, then we’re not doing that. Or we’re not in the time we thought we were... If it’s a political act, we’re not sure how to interpret or engage with it.”
Moving forward, the committee will compile the survey and usage data for the appropriate administration officials. In the meantime, the remaining project funds will be used to keep a supply of menstrual products available in the USG office, located on the second floor of Frist.