Credit: Liz Ridley / Mustang News

In Oct. 2021, California passed the Menstrual Equity for All Act, which requires all California public schools to provide free menstrual products, defined as pads and tampons, to students. The law went into effect in July 2022. 

All California State Universities and community colleges are required to have products available to students in at least one central location on campus and post a sign in all women’s and gender-neutral restrooms and at least one men’s restroom, explaining where products can be found on campus.

CalMatters published an article in April examining several colleges throughout the state to find out if they have actually followed through. Mustang News investigated 172 women’s and gender-neutral restrooms on campus to determine how well Cal Poly is complying with the law. 

After Assembly Bill 10 passed in 2017, which  created the initial requirement for California State Universities and community colleges “to provide an adequate supply of feminine hygiene products sufficient to meet the needs of female students,” ASI published a resolution regarding access to menstrual products at Cal Poly.

“In order to best support student success, the ASI Board of Directors, as the official voice of students, recommends that Cal Poly provides feminine hygiene products in female, male, and all gender restrooms in facilities campus-wide,” the resolution said. 

Six years later, however, menstrual products are still not available in every restroom.

Out of the 172 restrooms Mustang News investigated, 53% did not have products available nor did they have any signage on where products could be found. 

In the restrooms that do have a sign, a QR code directs students to the food pantry, the women’s restroom inside Mustang Lanes and several different university housing locations.

Students can also get menstrual products, and educational resources from the Gender Equity Center located in the University Union. 

According to ASI’s 2017 resolution, 47.2% of students use menstrual products. Not all of these students are able to afford products on their own. 

A 2021 BMC Women’s Health study revealed that 14% of students experienced “period poverty” in 2020, meaning they were unable to afford the menstrual products they needed. Cal Poly students that are already struggling with period poverty might have an even harder time affording menstrual products, as ASI’s 2017 resolution estimates that products sold on campus cost $0.40 more than products sold off campus. 

Architecture sophomore Monserrat Perez is a student assistant at the Gender Equity Center and leads the effort to make menstrual products available to students. 

“I feel like if [menstrual products are] not accessible, then it’s kind of a barrier to people who menstruate. It’s kind of pushing them back,” she said. “So it’d be really great to have those products in all bathrooms so people can just walk in and get it.”

Beyond making products more accessible to students, Perez believes education is an important part of improving menstrual equity on campus.

“Having those resources for people to go and talk to someone about these things would be helpful,” Perez said.

Cal Poly is working to add more locations where students can find free menstrual products and they will be added to the list as they become available, according to the Facilities Management and Development page. The university has not yet announced a date for when to expect more locations to be added.