Smith College to welcome trans women as part of new admissions policy



Last modified: Tuesday, May 05, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College will join Mount Holyoke College in welcoming self-identified transgender women in its admissions policy beginning in the fall of 2015.

“It is a historic moment,” said Smith College President Kathleen McCartney on Saturday. “I feel proud of the decision we’ve made. We are proclaiming that trans women are women. That feels like an important moment from a civil rights perspective.”

A letter signed by McCartney and board of trustees Chairwoman Elizabeth Mugar Eveillard announced the decision Saturday.

“The mission of Smith College is to educate women of promise for lives of distinction,” the letter stated. “In the years since Smith’s founding, concepts of female identity have evolved. Smith alumnae have been leaders in the movement to afford women greater freedoms of aspiration and self-expression. At the same time, educational settings in which women are central remain powerfully transformative.”

The college will continue to use gendered language, including female pronouns, in its communications to remain in keeping with its tradition as a women’s college, according to the letter.

Smith’s policy is not as inclusive as a policy announced by Mount Holyoke College in 2014. Smith will not admit students who were born female but self-identify as male, McCartney said.

McCartney said the decision could have gone either way. The process of coming to the decision came after a year of getting thoughts from alumnae, students, parents and other college community members, she said.

The college currently uses the common application, which asks applicants to identify as male or female, she said. That means genderqueer or gender non-binary applicants — people who often don’t self identify as either male or female — will have to navigate that application to be admitted to Smith.

McCartney does not expect the college to stray from the common application, but she does expect that the common application will someday change.

“Our conceptions of gender are changing rapidly,” she said.

On campus, McCartney does not see much changing. There are already trans and genderqueer students at the college, she said. Saturday’s decision is important because it actively welcomes such people to the campus community, she said.

Smith student body president Greta Stacy said there are also trans students who identify as male on campus and that those students are an important part of the community.

She said the admissions policy will continue to be discussed in the future, and suggested that Smith’s admissions policy already allowed transgender women to be students.

“I think that our admissions policy has always viewed trans women as women, allowing women to self-identify,” Stacy said.

At the same time, she said Saturday’s announcement was meaningful.

“I think what Smith did today was reaffirm and clarify our admissions policy and make it a more accepting place for those types of women,” she said.

The decision was announced during Noho Pride’s annual Pride Parade and Celebration, but McCartney said it was not intentional. That just was the day the trustees met, she said.

“I’d call it a happy coincidence,” she said.

Smith College spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel said she was not sure how many applications the college expected to get from trans women.

“We’ll see what happens next year,” she said.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.


 


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