How students pushed Smith College to update its trans admission policy


Smith College on Saturday became at least the sixth U.S. women’s college to accept transgender applicants who identify as female this weekend, according to an announcement from the school’s president.

With the shift at Smith, just two of the “Seven Sisters” association of women’s colleges have not made clear policy changes to include self-identified women.


Many of the policy changes have been led by gender studies departments as well as student-led groups.

At Smith, a student-led group called Smith Q&A has been pressuring the school to update its policy since 2013. The group at one point worked with the national LGBT rights group GLAAD to build awareness of the issue on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. A petition launched in 2013 received more than 5,000 signatures demanding the university update admission policies to be more inclusive.

A student led protest at Smith College in October 2014. (CarolynEBrown/CC/Flickr)

At Barnard College in New York, which has not yet announced a change in transgender admissions policy, students have taken to Facebook to raise awareness.


The Facebook page for “Students for a Trans-Inclusive Barnard” posted a link to Smith College’s announcement shortly after it was released this weekend.

“Barnard take note!!”, wrote one commenter.

Barnard College in New York is the only remaining all-women university that's part of the Seven Sisters schools that has not made explicit policy changes to include admission to self-identified women.


“The definition of what it means to be a woman at a women’s college — that’s changing,” Joanne Kwong, a Barnard College spokeswoman told the New York Times in December.  But “the implications range from housing to health services to the pronouns used in class,” she said.

In her statement on Saturday, Smith President Kathleen McCartney said the Massachusetts school was committed “to representing the diversity of women’s lived experiences, and the college’s exceptional role in the advancement of women worldwide.”


Those assigned as female at birth but who now identify as male are not eligible for admission at Smith, but the admission policy “does not affect students who transition during their time at Smith,” according to the school’s website.

Smith joins at least five other women’s universities that admit self-identified women: Simmons College, Mount Holyoke College, Bryn Mawr College, Mills College and Wellesley College.


Although the majority of women’s schools accepting trans women are in the Northeast, it was Mills College in Oakland, Calif. that changed admission policies in August 2014 to accept  self-identified women.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Vassar College as an all women school. Vassar College became a co-ed institution in 1969.

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