Beginning this month, free menstrual products will be provided in Bryan Center bathrooms as part of a pilot program.
The University launched the program after discussions with Duke Student Government. The project is overseen by the Department of Facilities Management, which is partnering with Student Affairs to install the tampon dispensers in the Bryan Center. They also worked with Progress Period, a student organization that focuses on menstrual equality.
Sue Wasiolek, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, noted that there are several reasons for the project being implemented now. For people who have a difficult time affording supplies, providing free tampons may alleviate some financial strain. In addition, the project aims to take the stigma out of menstruation.
“Schools have been committed for some time to providing free condoms, and [this project] believes that women’s menstrual cycles are an as important physical manifestation issue as safe sex, and that it should be as easy to find a free tampon or pad on a college campus as it is to find a condom,” Wasiolek said. “It should be something that is not hidden, and it should be talked about.”
Leslye Kornegay, director of university environmental services, noted that the Bryan Center was chosen as the location for the program because of its central location on campus. However, Wasiolek said that those involved in the project will reconvene later on and discuss expanding the program to other locations.
She noted that during meetings about the pilot program, the organizers discussed how a group of faculty members and students had already implemented a free tampon program in the Physics building. In addition, they talked about how free tampon and pad initiatives were being handled on other campuses, such as Brown University, Dartmouth College, Columbia University and Emory University.
Emory launched its free tampon pilot program in Fall 2016—as did Brown, which started an initiative to stock tampons in men’s and gender-inclusive bathrooms in addition to women’s bathrooms. Viet Nguyen, student body president of Brown, told Newsweek that by putting tampons in men’s and gender-inclusive bathrooms, the program can be more inclusive of transgender men.
The initiative at Duke has followed in the footsteps of its peer programs. Junior Riyanka Ganguly, DSG vice president for equity and outreach, explained why such steps are necessary.
“We want to make sure, given the climate after HB2 and laws like that, that all transgender students also feel comfortable and have access to these resources,” Ganguly said. “Even if this is a minority, there are students on our campus who are male-identifying who menstruate, and that’s why they might use a male bathroom but still have menstruation needs.”
Kornegay noted that 20 restrooms in total will have dispensers.
“The dispensers will be checked by staff each day and restocked as necessary,” she wrote.
Kornegay added that the coinless dispensers have been ordered and will be installed upon delivery. The installation is expected to be completed by Jan. 27.
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