The gender-neutral bathroom on the second floor of David Saul Smith Union has been stocked with free pads and tampons as part of a pilot project created by several female students who received funding for the products from Bowdoin Student Government (BSG)’s Good Ideas Fund. After receiving positive student feedback, the College plans to add feminine hygiene product dispensers in more bathrooms across campus.
Last semester, Annie Glenn ’17 and Sophie Binenfeld ’17 brought their idea of free feminine hygiene products available in campus bathrooms to Director of Housing Operations Lisa Rendall. Rendall connected them with other students who had expressed similar concerns through the Women’s Resource Center.
“This issue was raised three times by different people in the same week,” Glenn said. “[It] shows how important it is on this campus.”
The students decided to call their project “Free Flow.” They sought funding from BSG’s Good Idea Fund in order to facilitate a pilot project. The project was approved—they received $500, which allowed them to purchase 20 baskets of pads and tampons to place around campus.
To determine the logistics of placing the products in bathrooms, the students met with Facilities Management.
“Facilities was really helpful,” Binenfeld said. “But we met in a room of literally all men, and it’s something that they know literally nothing about. They were really forthcoming about that. They said, ‘we know nothing about tampons or pads.’ They understood that they didn’t know what they were doing, but they asked us for help.”
After the conversation, Facilities decided that housekeeping would stock the products in its closets and refill baskets and dispensaries while making rounds.
As a test run, a basket of tampons and pads was placed in the bathroom on the second floor of Smith Union. Binenfeld said that she has already heard good responses from students.
“We’ve gotten really positive feedback. It’s really exciting to hear girls say, ‘Oh my gosh! I really need a tampon right now! This is awesome!’ It’s been really cool,” she said.
Project Free Flow plans on putting baskets in most bathrooms around campus over the next several weeks, including male and gender inclusive facilities in order to ensure that products are available to trans men. Binenfeld said this part of the initiative poses some logistical challenges, since male bathrooms do not have counter space, and were not built to house dispensers.
Given the success of the pilot project, the College will be providing feminine hygiene products in bathrooms across campus in the future. The College bought four tampon dispensaries that can be attached directly to bathroom walls and stock significantly more products than the baskets. The dispensaries, which will dispense products for free, will be placed in central bathrooms on campus, including bathrooms in Moulton Union, Thorne Hall, Smith Union and the basement of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library.