Apr. 27th, 2011

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
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.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Well, I'm on the front page of the Wellesley News this week -- here's the article (PDF). This is an ephemeral URL that will go away once the Wellesley News updates their site, so save a copy if you want to have one.

I thought that Lesley Thulin did a great job with the article. None of the Admissions Office staff were willing to comment on-the-record, but there was a fascinating comment from an anonymous Admissions Office staffer who said (column 4, page 2), among other things, that the admissions office had a climate of discouraging any mention of Wellesley's LGBTQ community to prospective students and their families.

To the extent that that anonymous source's perception is accurate, it's unfortunate that the administration doesn't align itself with Wellesley's student and faculty population in showing pride for the LGBTQ community at Wellesley, rather than distancing itself from it. And amusingly, by doing their best to try to make me shut up and go away, the admissions office has attracted way more negative publicity than they would have done by just letting me do an interview.

I love my alma mater, but the decisions made by the admissions office are cowardly.

If you would like to add your name to the petition being organized by current students, you can see the text of it at http://docs.com/BO71 and email Sarah Ditmars -- sditmars (domain name is what you'd expect) to add yourself. You should include your affiliation with the college (presumably for most people who haven't already signed on, that'll be "Class of [whatever]"). I didn't write the petition and if I had, I would have asked for something less strong (to wit, a statement of discrimination, with reasons why, or of non-discrimination), but I do support what it says.

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Tim Chevalier

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