In recent years, single-sex colleges have come under fire for their policies regarding the admission of transgender individuals. Some allow transgender individuals to apply to their colleges, while some still stand firm that an applicant must identify as their biological sex in order to apply. Current and prospective students alike have grown outspoken and actively campaign to change these policies and work to create a more inclusive community on their campuses.
On May 2nd, Smith College’s Board of Trustees voted to allow self-identified transgender women to apply to the college. In a statement released by the school, President Kathleen McCartney and Board of Trustees Chair Elizabeth Mugar Eveillard said, “The board’s decision affirms Smith’s unwavering mission and identity as a women’s college, our commitment to representing the diversity of women’s lived experiences, and the college’s exceptional role in the advancement of women worldwide.” Smith joins schools such as Bryn Mawr, Mills, and Wellesley in expressing such acceptance.
The wording of Smith’s decision allows a group of potential students who have not had gender reassignment surgery (therefore not able to change their sex on legal documents) yet still identify as a woman to apply. As clarified by Smith and several colleges with similar policies, students who transition to male while attending their institutions are still welcomed on their campus.
However, at other schools, administrative committees are still reviewing their policies regarding transgender women while students overwhelmingly support their admission. At Barnard, the Board of Trustees have yet to issue a decisive overturn of their admissions policy. Community forums held in early 2015 welcomed discussion on how the administration should go about implementing such policy and how the current student body feels.
While some expressed that they did not want Barnard to admit transgender women as many other women’s colleges have, it is also common to see that students aren’t so sure of what it means to start admitting students. Possible reasons why are due to fears of being ignorant on the subject or not having a simply expressed opinion that takes a decisive stance. Nonetheless, there’s a loud and expressive population of student activists on campus who recognize that Barnard’s community is not as inclusive as it could and should be.
Many students on the Barnard campus are highly involved in recognizing genderqueer individuals and breaking cisgender boundaries. Student groups don’t simply focus on the issue of allowing transgender women to matriculate, but also create awareness and more resources for students who were assigned female at birth and now identify as male. Many organizations have made changes to include all genders in their conversations, and in the place of their annual Vagina Monologues, a theater group on campus put on a work called “Beyond Cis-terhood.” This reflects how some are calling for the spotlight to focus more on trans feminine people, rather than trans masculine folk, who are more of the face of transgender movements on campus.
The call for accepting transgender folk at colleges across the U.S. is loud, and not simply limited to the experiences seen at Barnard. However, for more on the work of Barnard students to create a more inclusive community, we suggest this piece by the Columbia Daily Spectator.
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