UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Students Commission on Student Well-Being partnered with the UCSB Library this month to distribute free menstrual supplies throughout the library’s gender-neutral and women’s restrooms. This six-month pilot program will make thin and regular pads, as well as tampons, readily available in nine restrooms in the building.
The menstrual products are available in dispensers in four gender-neutral restrooms on the first and second floors of the library, as well as in one women’s restroom on the fourth floor.
The Associated Students Commission on Student Well-Being (COSWB) is a commission dedicated to the well-being of UCSB’s undergraduate student population with an emphasis on physical, nutritional and mental well-being, according to its website.
Their most recent project aims to address period poverty — defined as the lack of access to proper menstrual products for any individuals in need of it — according to COSWB publicity coordinator Emily Zomoroudi.
“The goal is to combat period poverty, or the lack of access to proper menstrual products for people who don’t earn enough to pay for them,” Zomoroudi said in a statement to the Nexus.
The project is a revamped version of COSWB’s 2021 launch of the Period Project in collaboration with UCSB’s Period chapter, a community organization working to combat and educate the community on period poverty.
COSWB is also distributing the menstrual products to the Isla Vista community at Pizza My Heart, Woodstock’s Pizza and Rockfire grill alongside the UCSB Library.
Third-year biology major and COSWB’s Womxn’s Health Coordinator Michelle Tu spoke to the necessity of giving all students equal access to menstrual products.
“It’s important to have these products available because a period is not something you can control,” Tu said. “I think it’s important to recognize the needs of students … Having cramps [and] rushing to find a period product is stressful, so anything to alleviate students’ stress while they’re studying and being at school is really important as well.”
Tu said that placing the menstrual product dispensers in high-traffic areas was a key consideration of the commission.
“Being able to bring equal access to these menstrual products in a high-traffic location on campus such as the UCSB library will allow greater benefits for UCSB students and staff. Providing these products for free is important for students,” Tu said.
The six-month pilot program will hopefully serve as a springboard to implement distribution across the UCSB campus more permanently, according to Tu. In addition, she said that COSWB hopes to expand the program to also distribute reusable menstrual products as a sustainable alternative.
“We put six months just because, hopefully, we’d love to implement this as a permanent thing,” Tu said. “Hopefully we can also provide reusable menstrual products to have it as a sustainable solution in the future.”
Providing reusable menstrual products in the long run also aligns with COSWB’s long-term goals of ensuring a low carbon footprint, Tu said.
“I think providing more reusable menstrual products [is a more permanent solution],” Tu said. “Having [a] lower environmental impact is also one of our greater goals.”
“There’s a lot of stigma behind [reusable menstrual products] as well,” she continued. “I think trying to educate people on other sustainable solutions, versus a single-use menstrual product, is also one of our goals.”
The products will be restocked as needed by COSWB via student volunteers. Students can notify COSWB of restocking needs through a QR code that is displayed on every dispenser.
Tu said giving students the chance to volunteer allows them to become more directly involved on campus and with the commission.
“Right now, we are currently having volunteers to help restock,” Tu said. “I believe that’s a good way to incorporate the student population. I think this provides a good connection between how students can be more involved on campus and help volunteer as well.”
This project is months in the making, as Tu said it was originally planned to take place before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We started spring quarter [officially] … but because the pandemic happened, we just shipped [the products] to off-campus locations,” Tu said.
Tu emphasized that period poverty is an issue that not only impacts UCSB’s campus community but all parts of a student’s health as well.
“Period poverty does affect all parts of a student’s well-being,” Tu said. “We want to provide these products for everyone and recognize that not everyone can afford it.”
Tu said the community feedback for the project has already been positive and said she looks forward to continuing the pilot project and expanding on the mission to create greater accessibility to menstrual supplies.
“I remember people saying [the products] were a lifesaver, and I felt like my work to put this together was gratifying,” Tu said. “It’s really about helping people in the moment and being able to alleviate some of the stress that people have. I’m super grateful to even be able to do it.”
A version of this article appeared on p. – of the April 28 print edition of the Daily Nexus.