Scripps College has begun reevaluating its policy regarding the admission of transgender students. Scripps only accepts cisgender women, but the topic of trans admissions has gained national attention since last August, when Mills College and Mount Holyoke College became the first women’s colleges to officially revise their policies to include trans women for admission.
In a message to Scripps College faculty, staff and students, President Lori-Bettison Varga wrote that she is soliciting input “about updating the admissions policy to address gender identity regardless of sex assigned at birth.”
However, any decision will be unlikely to affect the coming admission cycle. Scripps Associated Students President Alex Frumkin SC ’15 said Sept. 21 at a SAS Executive Board meeting that the Scripps Board of Trustees will not vote on the issue this October, although Frumkin hopes to present on the topic at the meeting.
To give students a chance to weigh in on the topic of trans admission, SAS hosted a BeHeard forum Sept. 23. Frumkin said she recognized a growing call to action from the wider student body.
“This has been an issue that I think has caught on with all sorts of different students on campus,” Frumkin said. “It’s something that all Scripps students can come together behind because as a women’s college we do recognize that there is gender oppression in the world. That’s why Scripps was founded.”
Most women’s colleges such as Scripps only consider students whose sex assigned at birth is female, and Scripps’ policy does not address trans students.
“The college’s longstanding practice has been to admit women and graduate students,” said Scripps’ Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Binti Harvey.
Although transgender students have graduated from Scripps, the current policy is that anyone who identifies as a woman will not be considered for admission if their assigned sex is listed as male on items in their application, such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Many students, including Laura Kent SC ’17, disagree with the current admission policy.
“Women’s colleges were created as spaces specifically for cisgender women, who are marginalized based on gender,” Kent said. “Now that it’s 2014, it’s time that we all recognize that cisgender women are not the only ones facing gender oppression.”
Questions were raised at Scripps during the fall 2013 semester about the lack of a trans-inclusive policy. Though no direct answer was given at the time, Bettison-Varga’s Sept. 12 statement indicates that the college has been receptive to concerns.
“We recognize the need to clarify our admissions policy for current and prospective students, and … we are all committed to developing a policy that reflects Scripps’ core values and a process that ensures all constituencies’ voices are represented and respected,” Bettison-Varga said in her statement.
At the Be Heard Forum, students expressed support for adopting a trans-inclusive policy like the ones currently in place at Mills College and Mount Holyoke College.
In its admission policy change, which took effect Aug. 27, the San Francisco-area Mills College became the first of 119 single-sex colleges to accept applications from “self-identified women.” Mount Holyoke, in Massachusetts, announced its policy change soon after.
While the policies are similar, they are not identical. According to Mount Holyoke’s website, the college will consider applications from trans men and non-binary individuals who were assigned male at birth. Mills will not accept applicants who fit those descriptions, according to an article in Campus Pride. Both colleges will accept non-binary individuals who were assigned female at birth.
Topics such as Scripps’ role as a “traditional” women’s college were also discussed at the BeHeard forum, as were issues of inclusivity and oppression of trans students.
“Scripps has given multiple excuses for trans women not being admitted and hasn’t given us a concrete answer as to why they haven’t admitted trans women in the past,” Eli Erlick PZ ’17 said.