The Student News Site of Simmons University

The Simmons Voice

The Student News Site of Simmons University

The Simmons Voice

The Student News Site of Simmons University

The Simmons Voice

College anounces transgender admission policy

By Haley Costen
Staff Writer

On Nov. 5 President Helen Drinan announced the College’s undergraduate admission policy for transgender applicants, making it the third women’s college in the country to do so.

All applicants who were assigned female at birth and or applicants who self-identify as women are eligible to apply for admission to the undergraduate program, according to the policy.

“We felt it would be critical to be very thoughtful about this and to think about it relative to our institutional core values, and to not be blind to the fact that gender is becoming much more fluid,” said Sarah Neill, Dean of Student Life and Vice President of Student Affairs. “We needed to be aware and attentive and have a thoughtful practice and policy tied to that.”

Director of Undergraduate Admission Ellen Johnson said that it’s important to note that the new policy is not a huge shift in the College’s admissions practices and that several transgender students have been admitted previously.

“It’s not a groundbreaking new policy, but it is taking our practice and actually publicly sharing it with out community and with our prospective students to make sure that everyone has the same understanding,” Johnson said.

Neill launched a college-wide taskforce with Catherine Capolupo, former Undergraduate Admission Assistant Vice President, in the summer of 2013.

“It was charged with reviewing current admission policies and the Simmons admissions practice, and also to reflect on what’s happening in our community currently with respect to transgender individuals both at the undergrad and graduate levels,” Neill said.

While the taskforce made recommendations on how to move forward with admission policies, it also was charged with making recommendations for the best practices for campus in terms of services and support for transgender students, according to Neill.

Neill said part of the process in determining these between recommendations was working with students who identify as trans men.

“Part of it was also about raising awareness around what’s currently happening on campus. What is our student’s experience and how can we be doing the best we can for them?” Neill said.

The policy includes student health insurance benefits that include transgender benefits, a trained heath center and counseling staff committed to providing care to students who are transgender or are transitioning, and online maps featuring gender-neutral restrooms on the residential and academic campus.

Neill said that one of the major determinations of the policy was that students who transitioned to male while enrolled at the undergraduate level would still be eligible for a degree.

Other important points in the policy are that the college does not require any government-issued identification to verify gender.

The college only knows how students self-identify through their application essay, letters of recommendation, interview or other communication with the Office of Admission.

Johnson and Neill said they’ve received mostly positive feedback from current students, transgender students, and prospective students alike. Neill is unperturbed by negative or hateful responses.

“Some responses don’t require a response,” Neill said. “I think some are maybe not well-informed or just derogatory in general about women’s colleges and what they’re trying to aspire to. I don’t think it’s productive to engage there.”

As for concerns that the transgender admission policy is a gateway to a co-educational policy, Neill disagrees.

“It’s really about focusing on the fluidity of gender and staying tied to our roots, and genders that have been historically marginalized,” Neill said.

“It also ensures that those who are marginalized have a place, and have a place for their voice,” Johnson added. “That might not fight the traditional hundred-year-ago notion of a women’s college, but I think it’s very relevant to the mission of our institution.”

Neill predicts many future conversations about gender politics and hopes to bridge the knowledge gap concerning the policy so that the community will have a baseline understanding.

“This is an opportunity now to learn about this topic,” she said, adding that it would be beneficial to students not only in the healthcare fields like nursing and physical therapy, but in social work and other majors to be competent about transgender individuals.

“I think this is a really important step for the college. We certainly have work to do relative to community understanding and education, but the time has come,” Neill said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Simmons Voice Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *