Oregon State University expected to offer free period products on campus

Maya+Sonpatki%2C+the+accessibility+and+wellness+coordinator+at+the+Associated+Students+of+Oregon+State+University%2C+poses+for+a+photo+in+the+Memorial+Union+on+Jan.+23.+Sonpatki+is+trying+to+encourage+OSU+administration+to+push+forward+Oregon%E2%80%99s+Menstrual+Dignity+Act+at+the+university.

Jess Hume-Pantuso, Photographer

Maya Sonpatki, the accessibility and wellness coordinator at the Associated Students of Oregon State University, poses for a photo in the Memorial Union on Jan. 23. Sonpatki is trying to encourage OSU administration to push forward Oregon’s Menstrual Dignity Act at the university.

Samuel Albert, News Contributor

After delayed compliance with the Menstrual Dignity Act, Oregon State University will install menstrual product dispensers in at least two restrooms per building, free of charge.

House Bill 3294, passed by the Oregon legislature in 2021, required all public schools to provide free menstrual products in at least two bathrooms in every building on campus by July 1, 2021. 

An initial delivery of 200 dispensers arrived at OSU in November 2021, with 289 more expected to arrive by the end of January. 

OSU has started installing these dispensers, beginning in buildings with the greatest student intake. 

“It was brought to my attention last term that the university was not in compliance with this House Bill that was put forward… Nothing was happening at the administrative level,” said Maya Sonpatki, the accessibility and wellness coordinator at Associated Students of OSU. “It was a little unclear when we could expect to see [dispensers] all over campus… Between the students at the Period Chapter at OSU and those at ASOSU, we wanted to encourage the administration to get this done.”

According to HB 3294, menstrual dispensers and products must be implemented in all restrooms—not just two­—in buildings providing educational services to students by July 1, 2022. 

OSU failed to meet the requirement of having a dispenser in two bathrooms in every building by July 1, 2021 but is now trying to meet the requirement of having a dispenser in all restrooms in all buildings by July 1, 2022.

Dispensers requiring coins will be converted into a payless operation, and temporary baskets or containers will be provided in lieu of dispensers until more arrive.

“There are still some final rules that still need to be set… That’s being set by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, they’re charged with the rulemaking for this bill, but the final rules won’t be available until late spring or summer of 2022,” Sonpatki said.

According to Sonpatki, the primary goal of her collaboration with other on-campus groups is keeping the pressure on the university and ensuring they follow through
with the process.

Specifications surrounding the Menstrual Dignity Act can be accessed through the Menstrual Dignity Toolkit, a set of community standards and procedures outlined by the Oregon Department of Education in November 2021. 

“Within the club, I do a lot of the education committee role, so the secretary and I, we both work together to put on educational events toward topics like period poverty and menstrual equity,” said Sonia Nair, vice president of the OSU Period Chapter. “I was invited by some of the Oregon Period Chapter leaders to help with the Menstrual Dignity Act and their toolkit, so I’ve been working on that and actually helping draft and edit the toolkit as well.”

Nair encouraged students to send in pictures of any dispensers they find around campus to members of Period at OSU. Their most recent Instagram post includes three pictures of different dispensers in female and gender neutral bathrooms, as well as instructions on how to use them.

“The current models of each of the dispensers are very different,” said Emma Gilmore, vice president of public relations at Period at OSU. “Because we’re not used to having these free menstrual dispensers, I know a lot of people go to the bathroom without even noticing it or even recognizing them.”

The terminology used by the Oregon Department of Education in the Menstrual Dignity Act does not specify for the sole implementation of period products in female and gender neutral restrooms, according to Gilmore.

“It’s up to the institution to decide where the greatest need is and where those dispensers will go as they’re arriving, and my male peers personally have not seen any in their restrooms,” Gilmore said. “This is really important to know because not everyone that menstruates is female, and the bill requires free pads and tampons for all menstruating students.”