This fall, the admission of trans students has become a common topic of discussion for Scripps College students, faculty members, alumni and trustees, part of a nationwide increase in attention on the rights of transindividuals and their place at women’s colleges. To recognize this growing focus, Alex Frumkin SC ’15, president of Scripps Associated Students (SAS), presented on students' perspectives on trans admissions at the Board of Trustees' Oct. 11 meeting.
Frumkin cited a petition signed by 580 Scripps students as an indicator of the level of support for an admissions policy inclusive of trans individuals.
“They [the trustees] were definitely impressed by the student support and the education,” Frumkin said. “Hopefully they’ll be making the vote that the students want to see some time in March or May. We think it won’t be for this admissions cycle but we’re hopeful that the change will be for the next admissions cycle.”
Nancy Williams, a trans woman and an associate professor of chemistry in the intercollegiate W.M. Keck Science Department, was also present at the board meeting to help trustees understand the nuances of the issue.
“I’m really grateful for an opportunity to be part of the conversation, because it’s obviously something that means a lot to me personally,” Williams said. “It’s a place where I feel like because of my own experience I have things to share that might be helpful to people who haven’t had those experiences.”
Scripps has no clear policy governing the admission of trans people. About two months ago Mills and Mount Holyoke Colleges, both traditionally women's colleges, announced changes to their admissions policies to make them inclusive of trans people. The policies of the two colleges differ; according to Mount Holyoke’s website, only cisgender men will be prohibited from applying to the college. Mills College, on the other hand, will accept trans women but not trans men.
“I think that honestly I would like to see [the policy] be as inclusive as possible,” Sara Bautista SC ’18 said. “I would love it to be like Mount Holyoke’s policy.”
Students and faculty members hope to clarify the admissions policy to establish explicit rules about who will be considered for admission and to further the mission of Scripps. While Scripps students have been vocal in expressing their support for a trans-inclusive admissions policy, the Board of Trustees would ultimately be responsible for developing and implementing a new policy.
Frumkin also presented to the Board of Trustees Student Affairs Committee on Oct. 10, along with Adriana di Bartolo, director of the Queer Resource Center of the Claremont Colleges. Di Bartolo spoke to trustees about the appropriate language to use when discussing trans people and trans issues.
“It was a wonderful conversation, and I was so grateful to be there with board members and faculty and staff and students and really feel the room shift together in a direction toward inclusivity and value and what it means to have these values at Scripps College, to better serve the academic mission,” di Bartolo said. “And I think we all left that meeting thinking, ‘That was a good start.’”
To involve students in the discussion, SAS has facilitated two sessions of SAS in Seal Court, a BeHeard forum, open office hours with Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson and a talk called “A Crash Course on Cis-Gender Privilege and Trans Inclusivity” by Victoria Verlezza, the interim assistant director of Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment.
The emphasis at the Seal Court sessions, Frumkin said, “was really on creating a policy that is inclusive of trans men and trans women and people who are genderqueer or gender-nonconforming.”
Many students, including Frumkin, argue that a more inclusive policy will enhance Scripps’ mission of supporting groups affected by gender marginalization. According to Frumkin, such a policy would also affirm the experience of trans men who have transitioned while attending Scripps.
Haley Godtfredsen SC ’16 agreed.
“I’m all for it,” she said. “I think we should 100 percent have a policy that is all-inclusive.”
Frumkin said that much of the debate surrounding a trans-inclusive admissions policy is “a generational thing.”
“There are alums who are five or six years older than me who don’t understand why this is important,” she said. “So SAS is struggling with how do we educate these alums and how do we engage them with the conversation to realize that this won’t change the Scripps experience. It will only be enhancing it and really upholding the values that Scripps claims it has.”
Williams emphasized that regardless of whether the Board of Trustees decides to admit trans men, the clarity of the policy will be crucial.
“I think clarity and transparency is really important in order to be affirming of the gender of our applicants,” Williams said. “What we want to say is, ‘These are our boundaries, but we’re not going to judge your gender,’ rather than saying, ‘Our boundaries our clear to us; what’s not clear is your gender.’”