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Students at Wellesley College in Massachusetts have voted to accept applications from all nonbinary and transgender students – but campus officials at the women’s liberal arts school say there is “no plan” for immediate change.
The non-binding referendum, which was approved on Tuesday, asked students at the historically women’s college (HWC) if they supported a proposal to the Board of Trustees that would admit transgender men and all nonbinary individuals regardless of their assigned gender at birth, CNN reported.
Wellesley’s website currently states that the liberal arts school accepts those who “live as a woman and consistently identify as a woman.”
Nonbinary students assigned female at birth and trans women are included under this umbrella, but trans men and nonbinary individuals who were assigned male at birth are not.
The ballot, which was viewed by CNN, also proposed that the college replace all “gender-specific language…in reference to its student body.”
These changes would include saying “students” instead of women and replacing she/her pronouns with they/them, the outlet explained.
In a statement to The Post on Wednesday, Wellesley’s Director of Media Relations Stacey Schmeidel said there was currently “no plan” to revise the institution’s policies.
“The College will continue to engage all students, including transgender male and nonbinary students, in the important work of building an inclusive academic community where everyone feels they belong,” Schmeidel clarified.
The approval of the referendum was notably one week after Wellesley president Paula A. Johnson stated her belief that the college’s mission was directly tied to students’ gender.
“Going forward, we will continue to advance our mission as a women’s college while acknowledging and celebrating our students’ diverse identities. We will also continue to listen to all members of our community, to ensure that all feel seen here at Wellesley,” she wrote in a message to the student body.
Johnson’s statement prompted a sit-in protest outside her office, where students taped up signs emblazoned with messages like “Trans Students Belong.”
The editorial board of the campus newspaper, The Wellesley News, also pushed back on Johnson’s statement.
In a brief missive reaffirming that “transgender and nonbinary students have always belonged and will continue to belong at Wellesley,” the six authors referred to “the need for newspapers to take stances on their editorial standards” in light of The New York Times’ recent criticism on transgender issues.
“We want to end with our unequivocal support for transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people — at Wellesley and everywhere — who enrich all communities they are part of,” the statement concluded.
Situated on a picturesque 500-acre campus outside of Boston, Wellesley was founded in 1870 with the goal of providing a rigorous liberal arts education for women.
Nearly 150 years since the first classes began in 1875, the college remains a highly respected institution that counts Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Soong Mei-ling, the former First Lady of China, among its esteemed alumni.
The Tuesday referendum is reflective of ongoing reckonings of the campuses of the “Seven Sisters” colleges, or the unofficial consortium of northeastern HWCs that also includes Barnard, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Vassar, and Radcliffe Colleges.
Out of the original seven – which are now often referred to as the “Seven Sibs” as gender policies continue to evolve – Vassar has been coeducational since 1969, and Radcliffe College was absorbed into Harvard University in 1999.
Barnard, Smith, and Bryan Mwar do not admit transgender men, while Mount Holyoke states that it encourages applicants from “female, transgender and nonbinary students.”