The students attending a Massachusetts-based woman-only private liberal arts college have spoken out in support of a non-binding referendum as of this past Tuesday which would let allow women that identify as men and any “non-binary” individuals to have the power to apply to the school.
The student body officials for Wellesley College, which sport alumnae such as Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, issued a unanimous vote last month to push through their Gender Inclusivity Ballot — a measure which would let students “express their views” on the 150-year-old institution’s admissions policy while altering the language to be more inclusive of such students. However, school officials have stated that the student would not have any impact on the school’s practices or its policies.
The college already allows the attendance of transgender-identifying students that were born male, but this controversial referendum would seek to expand the application process to include women that identify as men.
“We’re just asking the administration to put on paper what’s already true of the student body,” stated the student body president, Alexandra Brooks, to The New York Times. “Trans men go to Wellesley, nonbinary people go to Wellesley, and they kind of always have.”
One senior and the president of Wellesley For Life, the campus pro-life group, –Elizabeth Um — stated to the Times that she elected to attend the liberal arts college because of how close it was to home and its identity as a women’s college.
“If you don’t think you can fit in here, then you have your pick of thousands of other coed colleges in the country or the world,” stated Um. “We’re a women’s college. That’s the core identity of the school, and we can’t start watering that down.”
Um did not explain to the outlet whether or not she stood against the referendum, highlighting that it would pass and any speaking out against the ballot while on campus would be the same as “social suicide.”
Wellesley already allows entrance to “cis, trans, and nonbinary students—all who consistently identify as women,” explained Paula Johnson, the president of the college, in a letter posted on the website of the college.
Johnson stood against the referendum and issued a warning to students that the results would not actually impact the policy for the school regarding admissions.
“We are not a ‘historically women’s college,’ a term that only applies to women’s colleges that have made the decision to enroll men,” stated Johnson. “We have chosen a different path, one that aligns with peer institutions, including Barnard, Smith, and Bryn Mawr colleges.”
“In accordance with our admission policy, Wellesley admits applicants who identify and live consistently as women, regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth,” she expressed.
Close to 2,500 students currently attend Wellesley college, which is situated in the suburbs around Boston. It is not fully known just how many of those students claim to be “non-binary” or identify as men.
“It’s important that all members of this community feel seen. Some transgender male and nonbinary students whose identities have evolved during their time here say they feel excluded by the College’s use of the words ‘women’ and ‘alumnae’ — and feel that their individual identities are not embraced,” stated Johnson. “At the same time, many students who are committed to Wellesley’s mission as a women’s college and who identify as women have been publicly criticized for their view and have felt pressured to describe Wellesley as a historically women’s college.”
This letter from Johnson was denounced by the Wellesley News editorial board, who labeled it “the College’s transphobic rhetoric.”
“Transgender and nonbinary students have always belonged and will continue to belong at Wellesley, a historically women’s college,” concluded the editorial.