College to provide menstrual products in all campus bathrooms

By Maddie Khaw, Assistant News Editor

After years of lobbying from students, Emerson’s administration has committed to providing period products in all public restrooms on campus—including in men’s and gender-neutral bathrooms—starting July 1, according to college officials.

At the start of this semester, Emerson Flows, a campus menstrual advocacy club, presented a petition with more than 400 signatures to Vice President of Student Life Jim Hoppe and the administration. After meeting with administration, facilities, and budget representatives, the initiative was approved in late March to allocate $7,000 per year for period products placed across campus.

Ella Kevitt, a writing, literature, and publishing major who serves as the organization’s treasurer, said that the petition provided additional pressure to their demands.

“Emerson started a pilot program years ago to put period products in bathrooms, and then they didn’t follow through with expanding it,” Kevitt said in an interview. “We felt that in order to get them to really listen and understand … we wanted to bring it to the public and let them show to the administration that this is something the students really want and need.”

The pilot initiative began during the 2016-17 academic year after Emerson Flows members advocated for increased access to menstrual resources on campus. The initial project brought period products to roughly 30 percent of women’s restrooms, said senior publishing major Emily Lang, who serves as the club’s president.

Despite the club’s efforts, the stocking of period products stalled in recent years, partly due to circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Hoppe.

“There was a more extensive distribution of products, and then at some point over the pandemic, facilities pulled back a bit,” Hoppe said.

Even before that, club members like Lang said she noticed that the initiative had “fizzled out.” 

“I was an Emerson Flows member [as a] first-semester freshman in Fall 2019,” Lang said. “Even then, I noticed an insufficient amount … [and a] lack of period products in not just all Emerson restrooms, but also in women’s rooms. I was seeing evidence of period products not being restocked as often as we were told they were going to be.”

Since then, Lang has led the club’s campaign to expand period product access across all restrooms on campus. 

“Period poverty is really prevalent, especially with college students, [some of whom] are having to work multiple jobs just to afford tuition,” Lang said. “Especially with the recent four percent tuition hike here at Emerson, students shouldn’t have to choose between paying for period products or paying for tuition and other necessities … So we wanted to lift that burden off of students.”

Although period products are currently stocked in some women’s restrooms, Lang said the present situation is “not enough.” 

“A lot of people have approached me telling me that they rely solely on Emerson to provide their period products, and that they have to take two or more from the bathroom just to supply themselves in their own dorm building,” she said.

Lang also emphasized the importance of providing products in not just women’s bathrooms, but also men’s and gender-neutral restrooms.

“While I understand that the majority of the menstruators at this school are cis[gender] women, we should still treat men who also menstruate with the same level of respect,” Lang said. “You get period products just like everyone else, and you get the same amount, because you’re just as valid.”

Lang said the 408 signatures on the petition to the college administration demonstrated the student body’s strong support for the initiative.

“We wanted to include students outside of Emerson Flows [in the petition] because we weren’t doing this for us, we were doing it for everyone,” Lang said. “That’s why we ultimately went with the petition instead of just going directly to the administration first, because we felt like it would have a better impact if they could see all the Emerson students who believe in this mission, even if they’re not a part of Emerson Flows.”

Junior visual and media arts major Eli Fresco, who signed the petition in January, said he is glad the school will implement widespread distribution, but added that he was surprised it hadn’t been done already.

“I don’t think they deserve any awards,” he said. “It’s good that it’s happening, [but] weird that it took until now for it to happen.”

Since periods are “just another bodily function,” Fresco said, tampons and pads should be considered hygienic necessities like toilet paper.

Senior writing, literature, and publishing major Camryn Ciancia said she was happy to see Emerson students working to combat period poverty when she signed the petition in October.

“Healthcare is a human right, and part of healthcare is having ample supplies for when your period happens,” Ciancia said. “It shouldn’t be privilege-based to get period care … Emerson tries to be inclusive, and the best way to be inclusive is to make sure that there are resources available for everyone whenever they need it.”

Although Emerson Flows successfully lobbied for period products to be provided in the campus’s public restrooms, the school did not fulfill one request of the petition: to supply products in residential buildings, especially the Little Building, where students use communal bathrooms on each floor. 

“Most of the residence hall bathrooms are in suites, so the entire usage of the bathrooms is maintained by the residents—toilet paper, everything,” Hoppe said. “The premise [of the initiative] was that individuals had their own supply [of period products] that they were comfortable with, and that would take care of usage in the residence halls.”

However, Emerson Flows had proposed providing period products in communal bathrooms throughout all campus buildings—both academic and residential—including common restrooms in dormitory buildings like Piano Row and the Paramount Center.

“It’s not just about accessibility in terms of location, but also accessibility in terms of finance,” Kevitt said. “It costs a lot, for no reason, for a necessity … Not a lot of people can afford to have a constant supply of tampons or pads, so just having that in dorm bathrooms would help with that cost.”

Holly Hessner, a first-year political communications major and the vice president of the class of 2026 student council, was involved in the effort to supply period products in Little Building restrooms after receiving feedback from residents requesting such resources.

“It’s important for menstrual products to be in all the bathrooms,” Hessner said. “This is a very small way to show some care and support. I know that whenever I enter a bathroom and I see menstrual products, I’m just slightly relieved.”

The club will continue to advocate for products to be supplied in residential hall bathrooms, although the administration seems to consider it “a bit redundant and too costly for right now,” Lang said. 

In the meantime, Emerson Flows also hopes to implement an alternative—but temporary—plan to combat period poverty in students’ residences. Beginning next semester, the club plans to enact a period product delivery service. Students can anonymously request products through a Google form to be linked on the Emerson Flows Instagram page, and club members will deliver a period “care package” to the student’s dorm room.

Despite this temporary solution, Lang said she still believes Emerson should eventually provide products in communal restrooms in the residential buildings.

“If they want to commit to the public restrooms, they should commit all the way,” she said.