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Credit: Alice Heyeh

Penn has been lagging behind peer universities in making menstrual products available at no cost across campus — but some Undergraduate Assembly members are working to change that.

UA New Student Representative and College and Wharton freshman Nikhil Gupta is leading a project that will expand the accessibility of free pads and tampons in bathrooms and gender-neutral areas across campus.

He said he was inspired to take on the initiative after hearing other students say the lack of availability of these products on Penn’s campus is an inconvenience. Since the fall, Gupta has been working with University organizations, such as Student Health Service and the LGBT Center, to make access to menstrual products more widespread.

Gupta said he aims to tackle highly frequented buildings on campus first, including Huntsman Hall, Van Pelt Library, college houses, and other high-traffic locations.

Making these products available in gender-neutral spaces is intended to increase accessibility to everyone regardless of their gender identity, Gupta said. He is also pushing for these products to be free to expand access to first-generation, low-income students, as well as to reduce stigmas that prevent menstrual products from being viewed as a necessity.

The UA is also tackling the related issue of a lack of tampon disposal containers in bathrooms across campus. College sophomore and associate member of the UA Armaun Rouhi began working on this project in the fall, with the goal of installing these containers in all women’s restrooms on campus.

“Usually when we think about female hygiene products, it’s the tampons themselves or other sorts of products, but I had never really considered that the actual containers they have to be disposed in would be lacking on this campus,” Rouhi said. 

The absence of these containers “poses an environmental risk,” Rouhi said, since flushing these products may cause harm to oceanic life.

Rouhi first started working on the 1920 Commons, which now has tampon disposal containers in women’s bathrooms. Since then, Rouhi has ensured that restrooms in Houston Hall, ARCH building, and Fisher Fine Arts Library all have these containers. He is also looking to work on Van Pelt next, especially the popular ground floor restrooms.

Rouhi’s project has revealed other inadequacies of Penn’s bathrooms, which he has started addressing.

“On top of tackling the tampon disposal containers, we also got a lot of stall locks and other things in bathrooms fixed up,” Rouhi said. 

Rouhi said he hopes to implement tampon disposal containers in all women’s restrooms across campus by the end of the fall 2019 semester.