Smith College to admit transgender women

Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, has about 2,500 undergraduates.

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Smith, one of nation's oldest women's colleges, will begin admitting transgender women

Policy pertains to any student applying in fall 2015 and thereafter who identifies as a woman

CNN  — 

In yet another sign of evolving attitudes toward gender identity, venerable Smith College will begin admitting transgender women.

Its board of trustees voted Saturday to clarify Smith’s admission policy, said college President Kathleen McCartney in an announcement on Smith’s website. The new policy will pertain to students applying in fall 2015 and thereafter who identify as women, even if they were born male.

“The board’s decision affirms Smith’s unwavering mission and identity as a women’s college, our commitment to representing the diversity of women’s lived experiences, and the college’s exceptional role in the advancement of women worldwide,” said the announcement by McCartney and board of trustees chair Elizabeth Mugar Eveillard.

Students who were born female but who now identify as male are not eligible for admission, the college said.

Founded in 1871 in Northampton, Massachusetts, Smith is one of the nation’s oldest and largest women’s colleges. Famous graduates include Julia Child, Gloria Steinem and Sylvia Plath.

Smith joins a growing list of women’s colleges in the United States that have recently updated their admission policies to include transgender women. The first, in August, was Mills College in Oakland, California, followed by Mount Holyoke, Simmons, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley.

Smith had faced criticism in 2013 when the college refused to consider an application from trans student Calliope Wong because she was not legally recognized as female in her home state of Connecticut.

After a petition gathered 4,000 signatures supporting Wong’s application, Smith appointed a panel to review its admission policy. Wong, who has been outspoken in urging Smith to change its admissions policy, is now a student at the University of Connecticut.

McCartney said she is establishing a working group to help transgender and other students address campus matters such as rooming and participation in sports to ensure “a healthy, welcoming environment for all.”

Smith’s new policy was hailed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates.

“No person should be denied an education simply because of who they are,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “By opening its doors to transgender women, Smith College has joined a growing number of educational institutions that respect and afford equal opportunity to all women.”