Students at Wellesley College, the elite Massachusetts women’s school that counts Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright among its alumni, voted Tuesday night to make transgender men and nonbinary students eligible for admission on a non-binding ballot initiative .
Despite this vote, Wellesley does not plan to change its admissions policies, which do not allow transgender men to enroll, school president Paula Johnson said in a statement released Wednesday.
The ballot initiative passed as part of the college government election process, according to a spokesperson, who said the school does not release vote counts or percentages. It also proposed using gender-inclusive language at the college, according to the student newspaper, the Wellesley News, which reported that two students originally proposed the ballot last month.
“While there are no plans to revisit our mission as a women’s college or our admissions policy, we will continue to engage all students in the important work of building an inclusive academic community,” Johnson said Wednesday.
Wellesley’s “Gender Policy” states that it “invites applications from all people who live as women and consistently identify as women,” including transgender women as well as “non-binary people” who were born woman was assigned at the time of and who feel they belong in our community. woman.” The college also states that it supports students who transition after being admitted and are allowed to remain and graduate.
Of the roughly 30 women’s colleges that exist, many of the top ones—including Spelman College, Scripps College, Bryn Mawr College, Barnard College, and Smith College—have similar policies, primarily allowing admission only to students who identify as women. identify in Wellesley was part of a slate of women’s colleges that announced in 2015 that they would begin admitting transgender women.
Mount Holyoke College, also in Massachusetts, accepts students regardless of gender, including transgender men and non-binary students.
Students call for stronger support for trans people
The vote comes at a time when the rights of transgender people – and transgender youth in particular – are at the center of national political debates about how gender identity and sexual orientation are discussed in schools, and access to gender-affirming health care, Other related issues between.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 400 bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ people have been introduced in state legislatures across the country so far this year, creating what many transgender people describe as an atmosphere of fear.
Students supporting the Wellesley ballot measure say that school administrators have not done enough to support transgender students in light of these political realities.
After Johnson wrote a letter earlier this month to officials refusing to amend their gender-based admissions policies, the editorial board of the student newspaper wrote that its members “reject and completely disagree” with her email. disagree” and describes the college’s rhetoric as “transphobic”. ,
Johnson wrote in that letter that the school “continues to challenge norms and power structures that often exclude women, and leave behind other people of marginalized identities,” and claimed that “some Transgender men and nonbinary students whose identities have evolved during their time here … feel that their individual identities are not embraced.”
She said that Wellesley also plans to appoint a new director for its office of LGBTQ+ programs and services to help teach faculty and staff members about gender identity and pronoun use, and that Was working to expand the number of all genders. Bathroom on premises.
‘Trans students do exist at Wellesley’
College government president Alexandra Brooks told the student newspaper earlier this month that she sees the differing views between students and the administration on who should be able to enroll at Wellesley as evidence of a generational “disconnect” .
The board of trustees “represents the Wellesley of 50 years ago, which is not the Wellesley of today, even the Wellesley of five years ago is very different from the Wellesley of today,” she told Wellesley News.
“I think the goal of this ballot initiative is to show the board of trustees and the college administration that this is not something that only a few people care about or something that only trans students care about, but it is something that a larger student community Body’s opinion,” Brooks said.
Ellie Wood, another student who helped author the ballot initiative, told the student newspaper that the proposal sought to help the college fulfill its mission.
“Wellesley was founded as a women’s college because they wanted to create a safe and supportive learning environment for people who are marginalized on the basis of gender,” she said. “Such a space should also welcome and support trans women, trans men, and non-binary people”
Founded in 1870, Wellesley sits on a 500-acre campus 12 miles west of Boston and educates more than 2,300 undergraduates. A Wellesley spokesperson said the university does not have data on how many transgender or nonbinary students are enrolled.
In a 2021 editorial, the student newspaper condemned the lack of inclusion of transgender and non-binary identities in the school’s official data collection, describing it as “archival silence and continued, active administrative silence”.
The editorial board said, “Anecdotally, it is clear that trans students exist at Wellesley, but we have not been given the numbers needed to prove this to the outside world.”