CSU provides free period products in all-gender restrooms

Abby Currie

New this year, feminine products are being distributed free of charge in all-gender bathrooms across campus such as this shown in the Plant Sciences building. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

A small sign reads, “You Matter… Period. Take one if you need one,” above supplied period products in an all-gender restroom.

“You Matter … Period” is a way of supporting essentials to the well-being of the Colorado State University campus, wrote Neal Luján, the task force chair and the director of technology and process support for the division of student affairs, in an email to the Collegian.

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“(Period products are) like the other standard supplies provided free in campus restrooms, such as toilet paper, paper towels and hand soap,” Luján wrote.

According to Luján, there are 33 pilot locations which represent a range of spaces used by students, employees and university guests. These include restrooms in areas for work, academics and support, and areas open to the public.  The pilot restroom sites are listed in the online campus map under Inclusive Resources.

Director of the Women and Gender Collaborative Cori Wong wrote in an email to the Collegian that as other universities started similar programs to Brown University, questions started rolling in asking if CSU would follow suit.

“A need was recognized to provide products to support the success of students and employees,” Wong wrote. “We heard accounts of students leaving campus and missing class if they unexpectedly started their period, particularly if they didn’t have period products on hand or the cost of products are prohibitive to buy.”

Luján wrote the task force began work in November 2016 and the pilot began in July. The task force was commissioned by Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes, according to SOURCE. The initiative aligns with the University’s Principles of Community, which include social justice and inclusion, Luján wrote. 

According to Luján, the supplies are provided by the areas hosting the pilot. These areas include facilities management for academic buildings, administrative buildings and the Morgan Library.

Auxiliary units in the division of student affairs such as the Lory Student Center, housing and dining services, the health network and campus recreation support the project as well.

The task force is collecting feedback to the pilot in a number of ways, Luján wrote.

One way is through an online survey in which anyone can register their opinions and feedback, whether they use the products or not.

“We are seeing positive feedback about the pilot,” Luján wrote. “The task force will evaluate responses to multiple assessments as we develop recommendations for an ongoing campus service model.

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The staff responsible for maintaining the products in the dispensers record volumes of the products used and the maintenance logistics for the pilot, according to Luján. Currently, period products are only supplied in the all-gender restrooms. The results of the pilot will be used to develop recommendations for a campus model.

Monica Rivera, the director and victim advocate for the Women and Gender Advocacy Center and a member of the original pilot project, said the project is not tied to the WGAC.  

“It was intentional that the project not be tied to the women and gender advocacy center for lots of reasons, but mostly because we don’t really view period products, or access to period products as a women’s issue,” Rivera said.

Rivera said she believes there are misconceptions about periods.

“We tend to frame people who have periods and aren’t prepared as being somewhat irresponsible. I wouldn’t think twice to say ‘does anyone have a tissue,’ and I’m not shamed for, ‘well, gosh, don’t you carry your own tissues with you?’” Rivera said.

According to Wong, the project is about increasing access for those who need these supplies and supporting our campus community in the spirit of providing equal opportunities for success.

“People shouldn’t be held back by bodily processes or the costs associated with tending to them, even more so when menstruation is a normal and healthy function of bodies that over half of people experience for a significant duration of their life,” Wong wrote.

By putting period products in all-gender restrooms, Wong said it also supports access for trans-identifying people who menstruate to help prevent uncomfortable or unsafe situations where people may end up unwillingly outing themselves.

“It’s also about fostering an inclusive campus climate so that people who have periods do not need to feel ashamed when they menstruate, or ask anyone for products if they need to acquire some,” Wong wrote. “Menstruation (is) … simply something bodies do.”

According to Rivera, the project helps to create a world where individuals have antimony and sovereignty over what happens to their bodies and on a broader level is one piece of the puzzle.

“Anytime we can remove shame from the concept of bodies it allows us to talk more openly about other issues,” Rivera said. “Whether that’s sexual abuse or sexual assault or other needs tied to our health, that shame prevents us from even engaging in conversation with our medical professionals.”

Collegian news reporter Abby Currie can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @abcchic15.