Students, alums push all-women’s college to accept men who identify as women

  • Students, alumnae, and parents have created a "Pledge of Nonsupport" that discourages donations to the college until it admits transgender women.
  • Calliope Wong, a transgender woman, appeared on MSNBC's Ronan Farrow after twice being denied admission to Smith.

Smith College students and alumnae are pushing for the all-women’s school to begin accepting men who identify as women.

Smith students have created a Tumblr blog called Smith Q and A that advocates for transgender-friendly admissions policies. Along with a campaign to change the admissions process for illegal immigrants, Smith students have created a “Pledge of Nonsupport” that encourages students and alumnae to abstain from further donations to the college until the college honors their list of demands including the admission of men who identify as women and a “more comprehensive affirmative action policy.”

Several women’s colleges have amended their policies to accept men who identify as women, including Mount Holyoke College, Simmons College, Scripps College, and Mills College.

MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow took on the issue last week when he had transgender student Calliope Wong on his show to discuss Smith’s policy. Wong is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut Honors College and applied to Smith two years prior.

Wong was twice denied acceptance as the application did not consistently reflect Wong’s status as a woman.

“Though it may be difficult for some students, their discomfort does not come before my right to be fairly reviewed,” Wong said in the interview on MSNBC.

Farrow encouraged viewers to tweet at the college to change its admissions policy.

Wong advocated for Smith to alter its admissions policies via a blog, a petition, and has a campaign for donations for sex-reassignment surgery.

Still, there are several Smith students and alumnae who do not want the change.

An outspoken Smith alumna, Elizabeth Hungerford, took her concerns to the Board of Trustees with a letter outlining why men that identify as women or transwomen, do not fit the college’s definition of a woman.

“Being a woman is not a spiritual or metaphysical experience,” Hungerford said in her letter. “It is not a feeling and it is not a performative utterance. Being a woman is a lived experience with material consequences. Smith’s admission policy must reflect some clear limitations on male gender identification, lest the social category ‘woman’ become entirely meaningless.”

“Transwomen are, by definition, male bodied and male socialized persons,” Hungerford told Campus Reform. “

“This is not a value judgment; I have deep compassion for transwomen who sincerely wish to live as women,” Hungerford said. “At the same time, I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect more than the empty rhetoric of identity politics (i.e., ‘I am whatever I say I am’) from males who apply to Smith as women. Smith must adopt objective criteria for admissions that are consistently applied and can withstand a legal challenge from non-trans male applicants.”

Hungerford said that she has asked the school to implement a policy that would require transwomen to produce documentation detailing their intent to fully and permanently transition to the opposite gender as “evidenced by legal recognition of their new identity,” if the students want to be accepted to an all-women’s college such as Smith.

“I don't think this is too much to ask,” she said. “Moreover, I think it is a necessary policy to protect Smith from degenerating into a coeducation institution.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @y_mdbailey

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