When students at Brown University head to their first class or hit the gym for their first workout this week, they’ll find something new in many campus bathrooms: free tampons and pads. Brown’s student body president, Viet Nguyen, who’s pushed the student-led initiative, will be hand-delivering menstrual products into all nonresidential bathrooms with the help of 20 other students. “There’s been a lot of conversation about why pads and tampons are a necessity, not a luxury, but not a lot of action. We wanted to take it into our own hands,” says Nguyen, a senior studying education policy. “Low-income students struggle with having the necessary funding for food, let alone tampons.”
Nguyen sent a campus-wide email today announcing the initiative, which has made Brown one of the first higher-education institutions to implement such a widespread program. University officials have not yet responded.
By putting menstrual products in women’s, men’s and gender-inclusive bathrooms, Nguyen’s campaign highlights an often-ignored fact: Not all people who menstruate are women. “We wanted to set a tone of trans-inclusivity, and not forget that they’re an important part of the population,” he says. “I’d be naïve to say there won’t be push back. I’ve had questions about why we’re implementing this in male bathrooms as well. It’s an initial confusion, but people generally understand when we explain it.”