[All information included is from an individual who was present at the meeting, during which the policy was announced by administrators to the small handful of students. I have intentionally not included the individual’s name.]
Tonight I found out that Smith College is planning to invoke a new, unofficial policy that will affect the entire student body. No one is talking about it, because no one is being told about it.
Male-identified students will be asked to opt out of hosting prospective students. They will be asked to act in the spirit of the Honor Code, and opt out of hosting. Because of their identity.
This poses a series of problems.
- What is the definition of male identity? Are we asking only students who identify with the word male to recuse themselves? Does a person using male pronouns count? Are students who pursue hormones and/or surgery expected to adhere to this new policy, regardless of how they identify? What about individuals who use the word male to describe aspects of their identity, but who do not strictly identify as male? Where do genderqueer and non-binary students fit into this process? And where does one draw the line?
- If students are expected to define “male identity” for themselves, what repercussions or consequences do they face for not opting out? How is a disregard for this policy even determined if the student is given the agency to define male identity for themselves?
- How does the College plan to execute any of this, without creating a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell situation? What do they plan to do to avoid witch hunts, outings, and accusations?
This new policy, which has only been shared with a small handful of students thus far, will create a hierarchy within the student body. It limits the access of a marginalized group to rights, privileges, and opportunities afforded the rest of the student body. It’s blatant discrimination, and it sets an extremely dangerous precedent for future generations of Smithies, as well as for the overall institution of higher education. The Smith College administration says other schools are looking to them to set a precedent. So I ask this of the Smith College administration:
Please do not be the first women’s college to actively display its disregard for what trans* students have to offer their campus community. In fact, please don’t ever display your disregard for what trans* students have to offer their campus community. Trans* students partake in many aspects of student life on campus. Do not trample their right, as students, to participate in an opportunity open to the entire student body. They participate because they love the college and everything that it stands for. They participate because they want to share what makes the college unique. Don’t treat them as second-class citizens at an institution that was founded on the very principle of gender equality.
I hope this message reaches far and wide, to every Smithie around the world.
All support inquiries should be directed to the Support Trans* Students At Smith Facebook event, which is open to everyone.