tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
One of my informers kindly forwarded me the following statement, which was posted on Wellesley's internal Official Announcements bulletin board today:
I write to offer some clarification in response to the discussion regarding a decision by the Admission Office not to allow a transgendered male alum to serve as an interviewer. The decision in this case was influenced by our tradition of having women serve as alumnae interviewers. The question raised in this discussion is whether this decision was based on a policy of not permitting transgendered alums to interview prospective students. The answer is: no, because no such policy exists.

We have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the recent discussions have reemphasized the importance of ensuring that we welcome the participation of all alums in all volunteer activities and admission outreach programs, including the opportunity to interview prospective students. We do value the diversity of experiences that our volunteer interviewers bring to the interview.

An important component of the admission interview is that a prospective student leaves with a clear understanding of the value of attending a women’s college. One thing we do insist on is that the interviewer strongly support and articulate the College’s commitment to being a women’s college.

Beyond this specific point, our community would benefit from a broad discussion of various ways in which the inclusion of transgendered students—and alums—has an impact on our institutional identity as a women’s college and our current practices. President Bottomly, my Senior Staff colleagues, the Alumnae Association, and I look forward to these important discussions with the community.


-----------------------------
Jennifer Desjarlais
Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
Wellesley College


I find this statement to be an example of the kind of communication that is intended to obfuscate rather than to clarify. I also find it to be a non-response to what students, alums and faculty are asking for, and to what happened. With the least important point first, "transgendered" is a word I have never used to describe myself, and is an objectionable word to apply to transgender and transsexual people. Joanne Herman, among others, has explained why. "Transgender" is an okay word, but I don't use it to describe myself; I'm transsexual. (That's an adjective, by the way; referring to someone in a way that turns an adjective into a noun is rarely respectful.)

The statement suggests, but does not say explicitly, that no alum who was trans would be allowed to serve as a volunteer interviewer. This suggests, contrary to what the statement does say explicitly, that there is a policy. Wellesley just doesn't want to take responsibility for that policy by stating it as such.

The decision to ask me not to serve as an interviewer could not possibly have been made on the basis of a belief that I would not "strongly support and articulate the College’s commitment to being a women’s college", as this statement insinuates but doesn't say outright, because no one bothered to find out whether I would "strongly support and articulate the College’s commitment to being a women’s college." As I've said in previous posts (which, of course, I published after the decision in dispute was made), to me, saying that Wellesley is a women's college is like saying that the sky is green. It's not something that should be controversial. Whether Wellesley graduates two men in each class or 200, it's not a women's college as long as the number is greater than zero.

On the whole, the administration's response is disappointing and I'll continue to be involved in whatever way is appropriate to ask them to be accountable for their decisions. It's what current students want, and it's what's morally right.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-27 03:40 pm (UTC)
sixolet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sixolet
Would they allow out trans women alums to interview? (Have they ever admitted any trans women?)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-28 03:32 pm (UTC)
eredien: Dancing Dragon (Default)
From: [personal profile] eredien
Hi there. (I don't know why I was surprised to run into you on this thread!) I don't know if you've been following my lj, but if you are interested in this question re: women's colleges other than Wellesley, you should probably read my most recent LJ post. I'm running this exact riddle trail over at Bryn Mawr now.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-28 07:04 pm (UTC)
sixolet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sixolet
Yup, I'm here! (I do already follow your LJ, btw)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-27 08:46 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] frozencapybara
It's kind of troubling that they're using the gender identity of alums to determine how they feel about Wellesley being a women's college - or at least I assume they are. As a cisgender alum, I can serve as an interviewer - even if I secretly think women's colleges are going the way of the dodo for good reason* - but a trans alum can't, even if he thinks women's education is important. If they want to base their policy on that basis, they really should be doing more vetting of their interviewers. But, as you said, to me this smells more like a way to weasel out of being accountable for their decisions.

It's also kind of depressing that the college hasn't formed policies on trans students and alums; it's not like they haven't had over a decade since it became an issue. (Probably well more than a decade, but I don't have statistics on that.)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-28 03:28 pm (UTC)
eredien: Dancing Dragon (Default)
From: [personal profile] eredien
Hello there! I am a genderqueer Bryn Mawr alumnus who is trying to get my own college to clarify their policy on admitting MTF transgender students. Is there any organization or group of students/alums at Wellesley which is dealing with these issues? If so I would like to get in touch with them; it's really good to do activism with other people facing the same issues, and maybe together we could all form some kind of coalition. This issue seems to be really blowing up at women's colleges across the board (Wellesley, Smith, and I assume Bryn Mawr, since I have been informed they're planning on making their policies on transgender students publicly accessible on the web this summer.)

You can contact me via LJ or via my personal email, which is my lj username at gmail. I also hope to volunteer at Bryn Mawr specifically to deal with these issues, because I've decided that I'm sure not going to support them with my money or other issues at this time if they continue to discriminate and obfuscate like this, as I won't support any other organization which acts the way that (shamefully) my alma mater does.

I find it infuriating that seemingly across the board there seems to be a perception that if you're male (or have ever been raised/socialized as male) you can't fully or correctly honor or value women and their education; I find that to be an assumption that's really harming women, feminism, women's colleges, and ironically the very cause of women's education that our colleges hold (rightly) so dear.

I laughed out loud in ironic recognition when I read, "I find this statement to be an example of the kind of communication that is intended to obfuscate rather than to clarify. I also find it to be a non-response to what students, alums and faculty are asking for, and to what happened": take a look at the similar language in what I got back from the Bryn Mawr admissions office asking them to clarify their policy on admitting MTF transgender students.

(All of my posts on the topic live here, if you're interested.)

Good luck, and hope to be in touch.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-28 06:19 pm (UTC)
eredien: Dancing Dragon (Default)
From: [personal profile] eredien
Wow, that is super-awesome! Thank you for the information. I hope to be in touch. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-05 12:08 am (UTC)
ext_440234: Liz and her Samoyed Misty at the beach. (Default)
From: [identity profile] elizabeth [ctyalcove.org]
So I'm a trans woman who is considering applying for the Davis Scholars program for non-traditional students at Wellesley. I'll call their admissions office to see if I can get any clarification. I'm hoping that they say that I'd be welcome...

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-05 03:35 pm (UTC)
ext_440234: Liz and her Samoyed Misty at the beach. (Default)
From: [identity profile] elizabeth [ctyalcove.org]
I'm curious what you'd say about CS at Wellesley. Yes, I'd be intending to major in CS.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-05 03:45 pm (UTC)
ext_440234: Liz and her Samoyed Misty at the beach. (Default)
From: [identity profile] elizabeth [ctyalcove.org]
Wellesley says, "if you identify as female and check female on the Common Application, we consider you to be female and eligible for consideration."

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