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Stanford supplies free menstrual products in women’s and gender-neutral restrooms

A plan supported by senior leadership and UHR to put free menstrual hygiene products in women’s and all-gender restrooms across campus is well underway; phase one of the project, which includes public restrooms on Stanford campuses and restrooms in common areas accessed by students and staff, is slated to be complete by the end of 2022.  

A key component of Stanford’s long-range vision is the university’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. In the past two years, Stanford leadership has advanced a number of programs to create a more equitable and inclusive environment, including a current project that provides free menstrual products in Stanford restrooms.

Caitlin Azhderian, director of WorkLife Strategy at Stanford, has been championing this project since 2019 and remains committed to the values that perpetuate it.

“Menstruation is a basic human function. This effort showcases a tangible commitment to period equity and is vital for the health, well-being, and full participation of menstruating people on campus.”

Before the 2019 removal of the “tampon tax” across 13 states, including California, and before the 2021 California Menstrual Equity Act and the Santa Clara County legislation to stock public restrooms with free period products, Stanford was taking action to ensure access to period products for students, faculty, and staff.

Progress report: Challenges, progress, outcomes so far

With the support of Provost Persis Drell, senior leadership, and University Human Resources, Stanford took action to start this project in the fall of 2019, and by 2020 the provision of free menstrual hygiene products in women’s and all-gender restrooms was well underway. While Stanford Redwood City, SLAC, the School of Medicine, and several other buildings on the main campus converted to providing free menstrual products before March 2020, the pandemic shutdown put the initiative on hold through 2021.

Stanford is now moving forward with this project by re-engaging facilities, determining priorities, and implementing plans. As of June 2022, 34% of dispensers in academic buildings across Stanford campuses have converted to free.

This substantial project faced many challenges, like replacing antiquated dispensers, auditing dozens of decentralized Stanford facilities, and managing supply chain delays. Due to the project’s large scale, the university instituted a phased approach, with priority for facilities that host large numbers of students and employees.

Next steps: A vision for an equitable future

Phase one of the project, which includes public restroom facilities on Stanford campuses, restrooms in breakroom spaces, and those highly accessed by students and employees, is slated to be complete by the end of 2022. This summer, Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) is starting the conversion process in residential common areas and dining halls. As we enter the next steps of implementation, Stanford is exploring sustainability opportunities that align with the university’s sustainability efforts and Zero Waste Plan.

Azhderian reminds us of the collaborative effort required for this initiative and the vision and values that drive it forward.

“Stanford’s goal for an inclusive and equitable future requires the community to work together to make progress for lasting change. This project requires the collective vision, action, and collaboration of many groups and individuals across Stanford. Its success highlights the commitment of those individuals partnering to support this effort and Stanford’s commitment to its values for a more inclusive future.”