Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
If you’ve visited a bathroom in a non-residential building this past week, perhaps a small basket filled with free tampons and pads caught your attention. These items have been provided for the students as a part of a pilot program organized by the Free Pads for Undergrads committee. The student-led initiative endeavors to provide emergency menstrual supplies for those in need at select locations around campus.
The 16-member committee, Free Pads for Undergrads, was formed after two concerned individuals—Chloe Klaus ‘19 and Leemay Elle Chen ‘19 – met at a Roosevelt Institute meeting and identified a common concern and discovered similar initiatives in peer institutions such as Brown University and New York University. Last semester, Shayla Smith ‘20 also expressed her desire to see the implementation of free menstrual supplies on campus in an article for The Phoenix.
“We reached out to Shayla, to students from NuWave, the SHAs [Sexual Health Advisors], Theta, Student Government Organization, the frats, and students in Roosevelt,” Klaus said. After planning and organizing, the committee was formed and set a goal for itself: to institute a pilot program during the spring of 2017.
“Currently, Free Pads for Undergrads has supplies in the BCC, Clothier, Hicks, Kohlberg, LPAC, Lang Music, McCabe, Matchbox, Parrish, Pearson, the Science Center, Sharples, and Trotter,” Klaus said. Each committee member of the initiative is assigned a building to restock on a bi-weekly basis.
“We chose which buildings and bathrooms to stock based on frequency of use and whether there were gender-neutral restrooms in the building,” Klaus added. However, due to the financial limits of the initiative, which received its funding from the Student Budget Committee, they are currently unable to provide all buildings and restrooms with their supplies.
Yet, cooperation with various parties allowed for several different milestones to be achieved. “We have worked closely with Alice Holland and Environmental Services (EVS) as well as had a few meetings with administrators who have been overwhelmingly supportive and helpful,” Chen said.
Through this cooperative endeavor, EVS helps by ordering hygiene supplies and providing leftover products. They also took another step: the menstrual supply dispensers no longer require coins to use.
“Receiving funding from [the] administration is still a goal of ours,” Klaus stated. With the efforts taken thus far, the committee hopes to use the experience, data, and feedback to “demonstrate the low-cost of this policy change, as well as the benefits it provides to the campus,” according to Klaus.
As Chen stated, “Piloting this program will make Swarthmore a leading institution as one of the first liberal arts colleges to implement this progressive initiative.”
Featured image courtesy of Chloe Klaus ’19