Metro Weekly

Second-oldest all-women’s college will accept transgender women beginning in fall of 2019

Admissions policy change has been considered since 2014 due to changing understandings of gender

Columbia Hall at Stephens College – Photo: Grey Wanderer, via Wikimedia.

The second-oldest all-women’s college in the United States will begin accepting transgender women and nonbinary students starting in the fall of 2019.

Stephens College, in Columbia, Mo., has announced the adoption of a new admissions policy that “expanded [the college’s] definition of womanhood to include both sex and gender,” according to a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” it published to accompany the announcement.

“The world’s understanding of and definition of womanhood is changing,” the college said in a statement. “Stephens is evolving — just as it always has — to ensure that it continues to provide the extraordinary experience of a Stephens College education to all women who will seek and benefit from it.”

Transgender students who wish to enroll at Stephens will be required to prove that they identify and live as female through legal documentation. The college will also admit students who were assigned female at birth but identify as nonbinary.

The college will continue to deny admission to men, which, under its expanded definition of “manhood,” includes transgender males or those assigned male at birth who identify as nonbinary or gender-fluid. If trans male students decide to transition after enrolling, they will be allowed to finish only their current semester at Stephens.

The policy will not apply to students who were admitted prior to fall 2019.

According to a timeline posted on the college’s website, the school has been considering a change in the policy since 2014, when the Obama administration issued guidance asserting that transgender students are protected from gender discrimination under Title IX. That decision prompted Stephens and several other all-women’s colleges to begin exploring the possibility of allowing transgender females to enroll.

Over the next year, Mills College, Smith, Holyoke, Barnard, Wellesley, and Bryn Mawr all adopted policies allowing for the admission of transgender students. At the same time, Stephens College established a task force comprised of faculty, staff, student leaders, and member’s of the college’s board to look at the issues surrounding transgender inclusion.

In September 2017, College President Dianne Lynch sent an email to employees and students informing them that the college was “engaged in a deliberative, inclusive and necessary period of investigation and review” regarding its policies on recognizing student’s gender identity.

In spring 2018, the college hosted several informational and listening sessions to talk about proposed changes, and surveyed students, faculty, staff, and alumni in July to gauge support for accepting transgender applicants.


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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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