The Menstrual Product Program (MPP) started as a priority for the 2018-2019 school year for the Cultural and Diversity Affairs Committee (CDAC) Co-Chairs, Niveda Shanmugam and William Harrer and Vice President of Student Life, Alex Casado. It was crucial to all members involved that the project represented diversity, inclusion, transparency, and positivity. With the objective of being intentional and cognizant of Georgia Tech’s community, the goal was to provide free menstrual products that are sustainable, biodegradable, and easily accessible around our college campus for all individuals that menstruate, regardless of gender. Having been a part of CDAC as members during the prior year, the chairs understood the long-standing idea of bringing accessible and free menstrual products to Georgia Tech’s campus through several organizations, including CDAC and other committees of the Student Government Association (SGA), over the years. After Shanmugam met Dr. Colatrella, Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Women, Science, and Technology (WST) at a Brown Bag Series event hosted by CDAC, the two discussed how they could work together to bring this initiative to fruition. This was a productive and hopeful approach towards the task. Dr. Colatrella introduced the idea of applying to Gift to Tech, a Student Alumni Association (SAA) competition that allocates SAA funding towards a campus initiative, and the two wrote the proposal highlighting the initiative and primary objectives of MPP.
CDAC accomplished tasks such as creating a survey to gauge student interest, communicating with Jessica Rose of Facilities Management and Stacey Conell of Health Initiatives regarding advice on installations, refilling, and inventory, and coordinating campus logistics; these efforts were led primarily by Harrer. CDAC conducted implementation discussions with Dean Ray in Student Life and secured a partnership with Anne Weigand and Danielle Ferguson of Aunt Flow, an organization dedicated to providing and promoting biodegradable, organic, and accessible menstrual hygiene products to campuses across America. The efforts needed to determine where to place the dispensers of menstrual products and how many were needed were led by Shanmugam. WST graduate partners Katherine Bennett, Danielle Schechter, and Monica Marks integrated data and graphics from the Free the Tampons Foundation and tailored this information from the national campaign to fit MPP. This step was necessary in order for CDAC to initiate this endeavor specifically for the Georgia Tech campus, allowing this committee to take the lead on the media campaign (read GT article here: https://www.news.gatech.edu/2019/04/16/gift-tech-awarded-cdacwst-menstrual-product-program). This involved providing marketing material, securing flyers and stickers, ensuring promotions, and serving as a primary stakeholder throughout the months leading up to securing the funding.
During the pilot phase of MPP, which begins in the fall of 2019, menstrual products will be provided in one women’s restroom and one gender-inclusive restroom in each of the following buildings: West Village Dining Commons, Klaus Advanced Computing Building, Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, Smithgall Student Services (Flag) Building, and Mason Civil and Environmental Engineering Building. Products will also be located in the Scheller College of Business but as gender-inclusive restrooms are not in place at this location, the items will be available via other methods.
For the 2019-2020 school year, Kyle Smith (current Co-Chair of CDAC), Heramb Tamhankar (current Co-Chair of CDAC), Genny Kennedy (Vice President of Student Life), and Shanmugam (Vice President of Internal Affairs) will work to execute placement, stocking, feedback, and implementation of MPP. The goal of the pilot is to collect data that will reflect the impact of this initiative, the amount of manpower needed for success, and gather momentum with this initiative so stakeholders can work with facilities, administration, and building managers across campus and make these products an Institute-wide campus service. Aside from refining the logistical details, the organizers also hope to inspire other colleges across the Southeast as well as Georgia Tech’s peer universities to provide the same support to their students and receive constructive feedback to hone the program as its legacy continues.