Spelman College to admit transgender women starting fall 2018

BY EILEEN O’GRADY ’18

Spelman College became the latest women’s college to change their admissions policy Sept. 5, announcing that it would be in opening their admissions and enrollment to “students who live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth.”

“Spelman is taking into account evolving definitions of gender identity in a changing world,” Spelman President Mary Campbell wrote in an open letter to the community on Sept. 5. “[We are] taking steps to ensure that our policies and plans reflect those changes in a manner that is consistent with our mission and the law.” The new policy is slated to begin with the class of 2022, matriculating in fall 2018.

The school, a historically black women’s college located in Atlanta, Georgia, is the latest women’s college to change its admissions policy to include transgender individuals, following in the footsteps of Hollins, Mills, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Smith, Barnard and Bennett. Spelman is the second Historically Black College or University (HBCU) for women to begin admitting transgender students, following Bennett College in Greensboro, NC, which made its policy change in January.

     Specifics of admissions’ policies vary greatly between these women’s colleges, namely on the issue of whether to admit transgender men, and students who identify outside of the gender binary.  Spelman College aims to admit students who “live and self-identify as women,”  according to the school’s website. Transgender men are not eligible to apply. The same is true at Wellesley, Smith, Barnard, Hollins, Mills, and Bennett.

Mount Holyoke has the most inclusive admissions policy so far: all transgender men are eligible for admission. Bryn Mawr and Mills also accept transgender men, but only conditionally: Bryn Mawr will only accept men “who have not taken medical or legal steps to identify as male,” while Mills only accepts trans men who have not legally changed their gender.

Spelman did add in its initial announcement that any student who transitions to male while enrolled at Spelman will be allowed to continue studying at the school and graduate with a Spelman degree.

“In adopting this admissions policy, Spelman continues its fervent belief in the power of the sisterhood,” read President Campbell’s announcement letter. “Students who choose Spelman come to campus prepared to participate in a women’s college that is academically and intellectually rigorous, and affirms its core mission as the education and development of high-achieving black women.”

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