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Menstrual Product Initiative

Organized by: Brandeis Undergraduate Student Union Cow-G Committee


In conjunction with Student Leaders

Presented by: Brandeis Student Union Cow-G Committee

For: Brandeis University Administration


Timeline of the Initiative:

Early Fall 2016: Student organizations and leaders, begin the conversation and push toward
making menstrual products more accessible for all on campus

Mid-September 2016: Students begin utilizing University press as an outlet for the
conversation.

September 2016: The Student Union becomes aware of initiatives, and take point in conversing
with leaders and liaising with administration. Initial conversations with Vice President Gray,
begin during this period, through COW-G Committee and Student leader Lexi Ouellette.

- Together both Vice President Gray and respective leaders format a plan to garner the
responses and tone of the community, as to their sentiments regarding the conversation.

November 2016: The Student Union, in conjunction with student leaders, develop a survey to
sent out to the student body. Survey completed in the same month

- Results reflected a positive response to organization. Students agreed, to the need of


further accessibility.

December 2016 – August 2017: Student leaders and Student Union organize a Union funded
test, to demonstrate effectiveness and necessity of accessible menstrual products.

- A Senate Money Resolution is passed in Spring of 2017 to fund the initiative.

October 2017: Student Union funded test providing free menstrual products is launched.
Menstrual products made available in 6 campus bathrooms. 15 volunteers responsible for their
management.

December 2017: Test ended.


Origins of The Initiative:

Organization for the initiative began primarily, in the fall semester of 2016. Spearheaded by
student clubs directed at justice for those who identified as female, more specifically Brandeis
FMLA, their purpose centered around creating an inclusive community, where all students who
menstruate had access to necessary products. Implementation was suggested via two avenues:
The Brandeis Undergraduate Student Union and the Administration.

Justification for the accessibility was as follows:


- Menstrual products are a necessity for students who menstruate
- All students, however, don’t have access to said products, for an array of
reasons.
o This includes, but is not limited to, the socio-economics of students as
opposed to others. Articles and additional research has shown that
those living in poverty are more susceptible to the health risk, that
arise from improper menstrual health habits.1
- Lack of accessibility to products, creates situations where students may miss
class, due to menstruation
o Menstrual products are not accessible, in the vast majority of campus
bathrooms. If emergencies arise, students are forced to leave class and
return to their dorms.
-
As the conversation continued, Students utilized university press, to ensure the conversation’s
continuity.
- https://brandeishoot.com/2016/09/23/make-menstrual-products-free-and-
accessible-on-campus/
- https://brandeishoot.com/2016/09/23/make-menstrual-products-free-and-
accessible-on-campus/
- https://brandeishoot.com/2016/12/02/not-enough-progress-for-free-menstrual-
products/
- https://brandeishoot.com/2017/03/17/student-run-trial-will-gauge-usage-of-
free-menstrual-products/
- https://brandeishoot.com/2017/03/31/six-bathrooms-to-be-stocked-with-free-
menstrual-products/

Use of the press ensure those responsible for making decisions concerning the future of the
initiative, whether the Student Union or administration, continuously factored in student voices.

1 http://time.com/3989966/america-menstrual-crisis/
Development of a Survey
Initial conversations with administration, demonstrated a desire for administration to hear the
voices of the students, directly from the students, concerning the proposed initiative. In effort to
effectively showcases these voices, a comprehensive survey was developed by the Student Union,
in conjunction with student leaders. Contents of said survey are provided below. The survey
produces over 455 responses from those who menstruate, with most suggesting a need for new
means of access to menstrual product, to be provided on the campus. Most called for the placement
of products in public spaces.
Figure 1.: Menstruation Survey questions

Please select all of the following menstrual products that you use:
-Tampons
-Pads
-Menstrual Cups
-Sponges
-Menstrual Underwear (“Period Panties”)
-Other: fill/in

Prior to taking this survey, were you aware that menstrual products are sold on campus?
-Yes
-No

Do you ever purchase menstrual products on campus? (from dispensers, the c-store, SSIS)
-Yes
-Dispensers
-C-Store
-SSIS
-Other
-No

If yes, how would you rate the quality of such products?


-Excellent
-Above average
-Average
-Below Average
-Poor

Is acquiring menstrual products on campus more convenient for you than purchasing them at an
off-campus location?
-Yes
-No

If not, where do you get menstrual products? (buy them, borrow from friends, etc.)
-Fill-in

How could the existing on-campus menstrual product services be improved?


-Fill-in

Is it difficult for you financially to purchase/obtain menstrual products?


-Yes
-No

Have you ever considered avoiding or avoided using menstrual products due to an inability to
afford them?
-Yes
Fill in option
-No
If there was a stipend for free products, would you be relieved of an existing financial burden?
-Yes
-No

Would you access these free products regardless of financial need/current ability to purchase
menstrual products?
-Yes
-No

Would you want to utilize free menstrual products provided by the university as an emergency
measure (i.e.: as needed) or would you want to utilize them for your only source of menstrual
products (i.e.: you would stop obtaining them from other sources)
-Emergency Use Only
-Main Source of Menstrual Products

Where would you like to see free menstrual products located? Check all that apply.
-Public Restrooms
-Residence Hall Restrooms
-Academic Buildings
Figure 2: Menstruation Survey Responses
Organizing a Test:

With the survey conveying a demonstrable need for accessible menstrual products on campus,
the Undergraduate Student Union, in conjunction with student leaders, began organizing the
details of a test. Intentions of test aimed to 1) provide students with the need they made apparent
and 2) Illustrate to administration the feasibility as well as sustainability, of such an initiative.
Funding for the initiative was achieved in the Spring of 2017, through a Senate Money
Resolution, requesting approx. 2000.00$.

Funding for the resolution granted follows:

- The purchase of over 2000 menstrual products


o These include both pads and tampons
- 6 Containers to use for placement.

Distribution of the products would be done through volunteer services. Each volunteer would be
responsible for the minimum of one location, checking each on their respective days, during the
morning and the evening.

Locations for the products are as follows:


- SCC Women’s Bathroom
- Usdan Mailroom Women’s Bathroom
- Farber Women’s Bathroom
- Goldfarb Gender Neutral Bathroom
- Mandel Women’s Bathroom
- SSIS in SCC

Each location was refilled and replenished by 14 volunteers on a daily basis.

- The posts were replenished at a rate of 2 times a day.


- The timeline of this project took ranged a span of 8 weeks
o This began in October and concluded on December 8th.

The test was publicized via the help of Student Union Communications (Callahan Cox)
and other university outlets, including press and word of mouth.
Figure 3: Photo of Menstrual Products in Bathroom

(Photo Courtesy of the Brandeis Hoot: https://brandeishoot.com/2017/10/20/university-trials-free-


menstrual-products-on-campus/)
Results:

Figure 4: Raw Data of Menstrual Product Initiative


Result Conclusions:

Accessibility to Free Menstrual products across campus are not only utilized but a
necessity. Analysis of the data shows most frequent usage, from areas heavily
frequented and access: Areas that have higher levels of traffic, including Mandel
and the SCC. Areas that are less visited, including the area of Goldfarb, are less
frequented and less utilized.
- The cause of less utilization is not a result of lack of necessity,
rather lack of frequency in visitation. This is to be clarified.

In regards to products in particular, students showed preferential attitudes toward


tampons. These products were refilled at a higher rate.
- This is not to suggest that the use of “pads” as a menstrual product
is not necessary. According to research more women still utilize
pads, as opposed to tampons. Thus, they are still a necessity. 2
-
Based on these findings, the committee concludes that the implementation of a
campus wide initiative to provide free menstrual products to the student body,
funded and implemented by the administration, is not only feasible but necessary.

Questions of prior concern hinged on two main points:


1) Whether there was clear demonstrable need for the products
2) If it were feasible, both economically and practically.

To both of these questions, responses have been answered by the initiative:

1) From the collection of data, the need is clear and apparent. Students the
menstruate are utilizing the products provided, when made accessible to
them
2) The initiative, when funded by the Student Union, costs less than 3,000$. It
was overseen by 14 student volunteers.
a. The “Operating Budget” of Brandeis in 2012 revealed a 59.2-Million-
dollar allocation to operations for the university. The 3,000$ allocated
for the initiative, would represent approximately .05% of that expense.
i. Therefore, the initiative is more than financially feasible.

2 https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-many-women-dont-use-tampons/
Figure 5: Brandeis University Operating Budget 2012

BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY Actual Budget


UNRESTRICTED OPERATIONS (Millions) FY 2011 FY 2012
P &L P&L
OPERATING REVENUES
Undergraduate Tuition & Fees 133.9 145.9
Graduate Tuition & Fees 51.5 54.0
Continuing Programs 6.9 7.4
Gross Tuition and fees 192.3 207.3
Residence hall and dining income 29.3 30.4
Total tuition, fees, residence hall and dining 221.6 237.7
Less: University funded financial aid
Undergraduate Financial Aid (48.0) (52.8)
Graduate Financial Aid (26.5) (28.8)
Continuing Programs Financial Aid (0.4) (0.3)
Gross Financial Aid (74.9) (81.9)
Net tuition, fees, residence hall and dining 146.7 155.8
Contributions 9.3 11.0
Restricted gifts and others used in operations 12.9 15.3
Sponsored programs, grants and contracts--direct 49.3 50.0
Sponsored programs, grants and contracts--indirect 15.5 15.3
Endowment spending dollars 40.3 37.6
Other sources 10.4 11.2

TOTAL OPERATING REVENUES 284.3 296.2

OPERATING EXPENSES
Salaries 105.3 110.5
Fringe Benefits 27.2 28.8
Sponsored Research -- Direct 49.4 50.0
Gifts for New Initiatives 11.5 14.2
Operating Expenses 59.9 59.2
Depreciation & amortization 20.9 23.1
Interest Expense 9.2 10.5

TOTAL OPERATING EXPENSES 283.4 296.2


NET OPERATING SURPLUS/(DEFICIT) 1.0 -
(Courtesy of Brandeis University:
http://www.brandeis.edu/budgetandplanning/universitybudget/FY%202011%20Actual%2
0FY%202012%20Budget.pdf
Recommendations to The University:

Recommendations to the University suggest a complete adaptation of the policies


taken on by the Student Union and the initiative, as well. The immense financial
backing of the University, will make products more accessible, to the menstruating
student body.

Qualities of the current initiative important to keep in:

1) Accessibility in public spaces, in particular Mandel and the SCC


2) Constant replenishing, at the minimum of a daily basis.
3) Communication with the students regarding the progress of the University
implementing the initiative

Possible changes and improvements:

1) Utilization of higher quality products


a. Refrain from the use of cardboard applicators for Tampons
2) Accessibility in more all gender and male bathrooms
3) Accessibility in Residence Halls.

Free accessibility to menstrual products, provided by administration to


Undergraduate student bodies, is an unprecedented act. Provision to products have
been largely headed by Undergraduate student government bodies, across the
nation. Recognition by the Brandeis administration and take over of this initiative
as being incorporated into the overall campus Operations, would set forth the belief
that we, as a University, believe in the importance access to the products are. It is
setting a standard for the rest of the world, which says menstrual products are not a
luxury, rather a necessity to which every menstruating individual, regardless of
their financial status or situation, should have access to. It is standing on the social
justice rhetoric and pioneering attitude, we so deeply cherish in our community:
pushing for making this campus a more accommodating space, for all our students.

Final Recommendation: Incorporate the provision of free menstrual products to


Undergraduate students, into official University Operations policy, over the course
of a year period. The year shall serve as an opportunity to review current
operations policies, train staff, acquire materials, and plan for implementation.