The Race to End Period Inequality at UC San Diego

The accessibility of period products is essential anywhere menstruators exist. Student Liane Barkhordar explains her approach to this issue on campus through the new Period Project at Geisel and RIMAC.
The Race to End Period Inequality at UC San Diego
Image by Sophie Nourbakhsh for The UCSD Guardian

Menstruating is expensive. In any given year, the average menstruator spends about $180 a year on period products. In addition, menstrual products are often not readily available in public spaces, leading to personal inconvenience. Period poverty is the inability of a menstruator to afford or access menstrual products, and it can have serious physical health, mental health, and educational implications.

However, despite it being such a prominent issue, nothing has been done to address period poverty at UC San Diego until last year. 

This was in part due to legal differences between California State schools and other public schools, which are required to provide period products in all bathrooms, and UC schools, which are merely encouraged to do the same. This recommendation did not constitute a legal requirement, which meant that there was no legal precedent for UC schools to provide period products in their bathrooms. 

This dearth of period products has not gone unnoticed at UCSD, especially in the two of the places with the heaviest traffic on campus: Geisel Library and RIMAC. 

While Thurgood Marshall College junior Liane Barkhordar was completing one of her Marshall general education requirements, she was asked to identify a problem that she observed on campus and propose a solution. She took note of the lack of access to period products at Geisel Library and took action. 

Barkhordar noticed that “other UCs had been slowly implementing the period products, but not because of the legislation per se, but more because of student advocacy.” She decided she wanted to be part of that change and bring free, organic, and sustainable period products to UCSD.

After being elected to the A.S. Senate, Barkhordar started to build her platform and collect data about the need for period products at UCSD. Upon launching a menstrual equity survey, she was able to gather data from over 1,400 students about their preferences with regard to period products on campus and their level of knowledge about period poverty. 

Through the data she collected, Barkhordar realized many students shared similar experiences regarding the lack of period products on campus. The occurrence of needing to go back to one’s dorm or even to an off-campus apartment throughout the day proved to be disheartening to many. 

“It’s not just something I’m noticing,” she recalled thinking to herself. “Other students are noticing this; it’s needed.”

Following the collection of data from the survey, Barkhordar began the pilot program for the period project. Working with many of the other A.S. offices, Geisel Library staff, and Patricia Mahaffey, the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life, she placed period products in bins in all restrooms on the first and second floors of Geisel Library. 

Barkhordar often found products to be damaged and ripped up in the trash, so she found herself working with the library staff to restock the products quite often in both the women’s and the gender-neutral restrooms. 

The bins that were originally being used to hold the products could only hold about 15-20 products at a time, so they ran out quickly. Additionally, it was difficult to extrapolate how many products would be needed for the full-fledged program based on the results of the pilot program alone. The need to constantly restock the products combined with a lack of funding required that Barkhordar frequently check in and see if the products needed to be replenished. 

Due to the overwhelming support she received from the pilot and students’ interest in seeing the project expand to gyms, Barkhordar worked with RIMAC to see the permanent implementation of the Period Project over the course of this school year’s fall and winter quarters. In RIMAC, she was responsible for providing the dispensers, but the facilities team provided the menstrual products themselves and pledged to do so moving forward.

In coalition with the director and student advisory board at RIMAC, Barkhordar arranged the installment of dispensers in the women’s and gender-neutral restrooms of RIMAC and the Canyonview Aquatic Center. 

“I’m so thankful that RIMAC is handling all of the stocking and purchasing of the products,” Barkhoardar said. “It’s this collaborative effort.”

Barkhordar made sure the permanent installation of dispensers in RIMAC would address students’ need for variety, providing options for both pads and tampons. The shift from the pilot to the fully-fledged project involved made the project as a whole more inclusive and tailored toward the needs of all students. 

On April 26, the period product dispensers were installed in all of Geisel Library’s women’s and gender-neutral restrooms. This marks the first time that the library has permanently had free period products available to students, a milestone for student advocacy at UCSD. 

Although the means for long-term funding have yet to be determined, the project has garnered overwhelming support and funding from various on-campus organizations including Triton Outfitters, the A.S. Office of the President, and the Basic Needs Hub.

A butterfly crewneck sold by Triton Outfitters assisted by giving a portion of the proceeds that it earned from the sale of that crewneck to the project. Other supporters have provided monetary assistance in their own ways as well.

As Barkhordar nears graduation, she hopes to see continued facilitation of the already installed dispensers, and she wants to ensure that students are satisfied with the products being provided. The aim is to keep the facilitation of the project within A.S. and to institutionalize it so that funding will not continue to be a point of contention in the years to come. 

Menstrual inequality is not just relegated to the inaccessibility of period products, however. According to the Washington Post, it is more common than not for physicians to not take menstruators seriously when they experience cramps associated with periods. Laws have been passed in countries such as Spain that give menstruators the right to take paid time off during their period, an important step towards menstrual equality. Implementing measures that give a higher degree of consideration to menstruators can prove to go a long way in alleviating issues caused by menstrual inequality. 

As this project transitions into a more permanent fixture at UCSD, it is important to recognize the strides that have yet to be taken with regard to menstrual equity. Challenging norms and using more inclusive language when discussing menstruation need to be normalized, and projects such as the Period Project fight to remove the stigma surrounding menstruation. Menstruating is, after all, only a byproduct of being human. 

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About the Contributors
Divya Devarkonda
Divya Devarkonda, Staff Writer
Divya is part of the class of 2027, majoring in economics and political science. When she's not writing for the Guardian, you can probably find her trying out new recipes or reading.
Giselle Hinojosa
Giselle Hinojosa, Contributing Writer
I'm a first year Communications major, looking to work professionally as a journalist. When I'm not writing I'm either watching sports, out trying new food with friends, or working out.
Sophie Nourbakhsh
Sophie Nourbakhsh, Photographer
I'm a simple woman, Mrs. Fundamental like I play for the Spurs
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