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Bryn Mawr College, an all-women’s liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, clarified its admission policy on Monday to accept transwomen and individuals who “identify as women” when they apply.
The Board of Trustees sent an email announcing that it had voted unanimously to update its admission rules, which were previously open to “female students only.”
“During its meetings this past weekend, the College’s Board of Trustees discussed and approved a recommendation from a Board working group that was created at the September 2014 Board meeting to examine the mission of the College with respect to transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming applicants,” an email from the Board of Trustees said.
“The working group concluded unanimously that the mission of the College at the undergraduate level is to educate women to be future leaders,” they said.
The announcement noted that Bryn Mawr’s identity as a women’s college is “fundamental to its distinctive environment.”
“The Board approved the working group’s recommendation that in addition to those applicants who were assigned female at birth, the applicant pool will be inclusive of transwomen and of intersex individuals who live and identify as women at the time of application,” the email said. “Intersex individuals who do not identify as male are also eligible for admission.”
However, the college will not be inclusive to transmen.
“Those assigned female at birth who have taken medical or legal steps to identify as male are not eligible for admission,” the Board of Trustees said.
Bryn Mawr may request additional legal or medical information to verify that an applicant is a woman, or a transwoman if their “gender identity is not clearly reflected in their application materials.”
“In evaluating such additional information, the College fully intends to be as flexible and inclusive as possible,” they said.
The policy also allows for an admitted student’s gender identity to change while they attend Bryn Mawr.
“Within the context of our mission as a women’s college, all Bryn Mawr students will continue to be valued and supported members of the community, no matter how their gender identity shifts during their time at the College,” the Board of Trustees said.
The official change in policy will be finalized before the 2015-16 application process. The Board of Trustees also took up a recommendation that the school use of “gendered language” respects individual identities.
The Board of Trustees said that the decision was made within the context of Bryn Mawr’s mission, which is to provide “smart, strong women” an education since 1885.
The mission statement reads in part: “Bryn Mawr seeks to sustain a community diverse in nature and democratic in practice, for we believe that only through considering many perspectives do we gain a deeper understanding of each other and the world.”
The previous admission policy only allowed for female students to attend, though the school was still open to student’s changing their gender identity once enrolled.
“Bryn Mawr's admissions policy as a women's college is to admit female students only,” the school’s website states. “If it is not clear that an applicant to the College is female, we would approach the situation on an individual basis to gain a better understanding of the student's circumstances. However, our policy to admit female students only would not change.”
“How an individual self-identifies in terms of gender, or any changes in self-identification while a student is enrolled here are personal matters and not something the College tracks,” it continued. “Our students tend to be exceptionally accepting of each other’s differences, and the faculty, staff, and administrators try to create as healthy and supportive an environment as possible for all of our students.”
Bryn Mawr says it already has students, faculty, and staff who are transgender.
In a press statement announcing the change Monday, the college said the decision was made after “months of study and consultation.”
“I am very grateful to the working group for the time and the highly deliberative and consultative process they put into this recommendation,” said Bryn Mawr College Board Chair Arlene Gibson. “Bryn Mawr continues its clear mission to educate women to be future leaders, but it also recognizes that conceptions of gender are changing and that the College must respond to these changes.”
“I appreciate the work of our Board, its affirmation of the College’s mission as a women’s college and its guidelines for implementing that mission and am pleased the College will now be more explicit about welcoming transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming applicants,“ Bryn Mawr College President Kim Cassidy added.
Bryn Mawr already offers a “Gender and Sexuality” program that includes courses on transsexual studies, “gender as it is inflected by race, class, religion, and nationality,” and “gender and science.”
Updated, 11:45 A.M., Tuesday, Feb. 10: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Bryn Mawr will take additional legal or medical steps to verify that an applicant is a woman or a transwoman. It has been updated to reflect that Bryn Mawr's policy, in cases where further clarity is needed, is that it "may request additional information, which could include verifiable legal or medical steps taken to affirm gender."