Opinion | Op-eds

Open Barnard’s admission policy

As of now, Barnard only admits applicants who indicate that they are female on their applications. But at Barnard, there are not only students who identify as (cis) women but also those along a whole spectrum of trans identities, such as trans male, genderqueer, genderfluid, and more.

Barnard is already a school whose population is not solely made up of women, and yet it continues to exclude trans women. Barnard has no written policy regarding its admission of trans women, which means the only way for a trans woman to be able to apply is for them to have “all their paperwork in order” (i.e., to have all application materials state that the applicant is female)—which is an unreasonable burden for applicants. Changing legal gender documentation is an expensive process everywhere, requires surgery in most states, and is not allowed in other states. Asking a student applying to college to navigate all this presupposes a level of parental support and environmental safety that often just isn’t there. Additionally, this excludes nonbinary DMAB (designated male at birth) trans people, those who do not wish to transition medically, and those who cannot medically transition for medical reasons. 

As a college that was founded in order to provide education to women who were denied it on the basis of their gender, the unconditional acceptance of trans women fits perfectly with Barnard’s mission to provide resources to those who have been systematically denied access on the basis of their gender. Throughout its history, Barnard’s definition of “woman” has expanded—originally, “women’s college” really meant “rich, white women’s college.” Thankfully, this definition has expanded over time to admit women of color and women from other class backgrounds. We believe the time has come to extend admission further: As a historically women’s college, Barnard should admit trans women.  

Trans women face disproportionate violence on the basis of their gender identities and presentations. The supportive space that Barnard could provide for them is important and would foster the sort of community that has helped so many women.

Admittance doesn’t mean perfection, though—Barnard (and Columbia as well) can still do a lot of work to bring in more women of color and create better systems of support for students of color, especially queer and trans students of color. These efforts and resources should expand as our student populations do. Similarly, education that provides students with a multifaceted understanding of gender is needed to change transphobic and cissexist attitudes. 

Binary structures of gender that establish standards of femininity and masculinity are constantly reinforced in everyday language, reproducing transphobic attitudes and behaviors. Seemingly meaningless practices such as referring to Barnard students as “Barnard women” or “girls” erases nonbinary and trans identities. And although this is a reflection of societal attitudes founded in ciscentric thought, Barnard’s lack of attention to these issues works to further marginalize already-oppressed gender identities. 

To stand by its commitments to diversity and to student well-being, Barnard must be more active in combating transphobia in its policies, in its classrooms, and on campus as a whole. The creation of gender-inclusive bathrooms, which came from collaborations among students, faculty, and administrators, is a step in the right direction for Barnard. But students and administrators must continue to work toward progressive policies that are beneficial to trans and gender-nonconforming people in our community. 

Trans women are women, and to imply otherwise in any way perpetuates transmisogyny, the intersection of transphobia and misogyny that discriminates against trans women on interpersonal and institutional levels. We agree with Dean Spade, who proposed at the recent SGA town hall on gender at Barnard that the college should be a space for all gender-oppressed people, not just those who were assigned female at birth. 

Mills College, a women’s college in the San Francisco Bay Area, has taken strides toward the inclusion of transgender students—it published a report on how to make the campus more trans-inclusive in its admissions processes, as well as in various aspects of daily campus life. Two years prior to that, an anonymous trans student published an opinion piece with similar goals to ours, discussing the necessity of opening the college’s doors to all trans people but especially trans women. At Simmons College, another women’s college, trans women are also admitted. One woman, Alex, published her acceptance letter online. Smith College has had less success, but students there are working tirelessly toward the inclusion of trans women. 

We do not intend to attack or demonize Barnard with this op-ed. As Barnard and Columbia students, we have a great deal of love for Barnard College, and it is because of this love that we want to push Barnard to be more inclusive. We believe that Barnard can do better and want all gender-oppressed people who desire to call this school home to be able to do so.  

The inclusion of trans women at Barnard will certainly not solve all problems of transphobia on either side of the street, but it is an important and necessary step in the right direction.

This op-ed was written by Barnard and Columbia students from the boards of GendeRevolution and Proud Colors. 

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
CC posted on

While I agree with some of the points in this article, I do wonder how this would actually go down. Short of the legal documentation which you say many can't or don't want to provide, what sort of "proof" would you then have to submit in order to be eligible to apply to the college? Should Barnard ask for an essay from every applicant on why they feel that they have the "right" to attend a college for "women"? Or maybe just an optional field for people who aren't legally considered female to expand on why they feel that they are women and would benefit from a Barnard education? I just don't really see how it would be possible to open up the applications in this way without just opening them up to everybody, but maybe I'm missing something.

+1
+12
-1
Anonymous posted on

I don't think cis men would choose to apply to a women's college. The way you keep them out is you continue to call Barnard a women's college.

+1
-17
-1
Anonymous posted on

It's not that simple though. It's my understanding that if Barnard allows trans women (which I am totally for!) in they might legally loose the right to call themselves a women's college. While the student rightfully feels they are a woman the government documents state otherwise which would then cause conflict.

+1
+2
-1
Anonymous posted on

I feel like that's a case to be fought for. The "legal" aspect of allowing trans women without papers in while maintaining Barnard's title as a women's college would be very positively backed up by the larger portion of the community and beyond, that could be patched up in due time.

What is a more difficult case is sustaining the position of Barnard students who are NOT women. Barnard must openly acknowledge that they are not a college exclusively for women in order to respect the fact that many students do not identify as such, and that some students have even made the legal transition at some point in their college careers to say otherwise. The whole "trans women without legal documentation" issue I feel will have enough backing, but what about those who want to be at Barnard but reject "woman" as a part of their identity? How can they respect these students and still maintain it as a "women's college"? I'm not implying I have a stance on this, I am just asking as it seems very important to this issue.

Trans women and cis women at a women's college is one thing, but continuing to fully embrace everyone else who is not a cisgendered male nor woman-identified might be a tough thing to dually accomplish. What about a trans man who has had his transition well-underway and maybe even some legal changes prior to anticipating Barnard? According to the article, he should be admitted, but I'm wondering how well-received the idea will be among the bigwigs.

I also wonder how alum and the majority applicant pool families will react to changing "women's college" to "all oppressed genders college", will a potentially bad vibe affect Barnard's legislation on matters?

I'm not saying this issue should back down whatsoever just because of a few supposed setbacks, by the way, just asking these questions.

+1
+13
-1
Anonymous posted on

This opens up an entire can of worms. You cannot have people with penises admited to Barnard. This would be a disaster. It is not Barnards responsibilty to make everyone on the planet feel comfortable with themselves. This woud put the other 99,9% of the population uncomfortable for the rights of a handful. Why should women who want to attend a womens college be punished.

+1
-14
-1
Anonymous posted on

Someone's genital organs have nothing to do with their gender identity. I think we have to accept that we don't live in a world with only two genders. "People with penises" are just that; people with penises are men, women, and so many more, unique, identities. Whether this makes people uncomfortable is a social hurdle that needs to be dealt with if society is ever to get past transphobia and other gender biases. Barnard should admit women and gender-noncomforming individuals and show the world that Barnard is a school to educate people away from the patriarchy and teach people to be leaders no matter what they identify as.

+1
+16
-1
Anonymous posted on

A definition line has to be drawn somewhere. Right now most entities would not use an identity or psychologic definition, but rather a physiologic one. an applicant purely has to show they are female either by a birth certificate, school transcript, or other legal documentation. Sexual identity is a completely different story and people are free to identify with any sexy they want.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

That is correct, but you do not apply to college based on your "identity." You apply based on genetics and legal documents. You are free to identify with whomever you want, but that does not change your application status.

+1
+9
-1
Anonymous posted on

"You cannot have people with penises admited to Barnard. This would be a disaster."

There are already plenty of Barnard students and alumnae "with penises". You probably just haven't noticed, because having a penis doesn't preclude you from identifying as a woman or attending a women's college.

+1
+2
-1
Anonymous posted on

Actually it does.

+1
+10
-1
Anonymous posted on

What is then to prevent any male who identifies with the female gender from applying to Barnard? My guess is that Barnard already has in place what the definition of "female" is. They probably use "the sex of the birth certificate" which is a world wide recognized document, and pretty fair legal the definition. So women who identify as male or female or anything in between may apply.

+1
-8
-1
Anonymous posted on

What is then to prevent any male who identifies with the female gender from applying to Barnard? My guess is that Barnard already has in place what the definition of "female" is. They probably use "the sex of the birth certificate" which is a world wide recognized document, and pretty fair legal the definition. So women who identify as male or female or anything in between may apply.

+1
-14
-1
Well... posted on

Maybe Barnard should be a co-ed school like (almost) everyone else. Allow all genders to apply, even males. Stop living in the Stone Age (wink wink)!

+1
-21
-1
Anonymous posted on

I wonder how the authors would feel about Barnard admitting cis men. If gender doesn't matter, why should Barnard be a women's college at all? Why not just be a college that admits all genders? Why single out trans students? Just admit everyone.

Personally I think that Barnard should remain a women's college by the current legal definition. There are countless other colleges where gender isn't an issue, but part of what makes Barnard so great is its focus on women, female leadership, etc. I know that not all students identify as women, but the "bold, beautiful Barnard woman" is all over Barnard's literature, it's not like trans/gender fluid students couldn't expect the focus to be on women. It doesn't seem justified for people to be upset about Barnard not including other gender identities when it presents itself as a women's college. I take pride in being a Barnard woman, and if the idea of a women's college is not something you feel comfortable with, then maybe Barnard just isn't the right fit, plain and simple.

+1
+20
-1
Anonymous posted on

Open Barnard's admisssion to what? If you are female (on any document), you may apply. Easy. Identity is a non issue. I can identify with black people, but that does not make me black for admissions purposes.

+1
-9
-1
Anonymous posted on

This is a slippery slope that as an alum makes me incredibly uncomfortable in part because identity is fluid and Barnard must be sure it is at least admitting students who are in fact women. It is, after all a women's college. In the same way that Barnard was created for women, not fluid gendered people or transpeople or whatever the catchy phrase has become, if it is necessary for these people to have a safe educational space they should create their own institutions. For now. If there are women's colleges and hbcus and all kinds of colleges meant to support people who are not welcome by mainstream institutions then there can also be special places for trans population. But I don't support changing the character of Barnard to be a catch all for all people. That's not fair to those of us who eant to go to a women's college and be at a school that is about and for women. This isn't a place that is supposed to be about all f society's marginalized.

+1
+6
-1
Anonymous posted on

It is interesting to note that it will ultimately be women who destroy women"s colleges.

+1
+2
-1
Anonymous posted on

You cannot have people with penises admitted to Barnard. This would be a disaster.

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

You cannot have people with penises admitted to Barnard. This would be a disaster.

+1
-3
-1
Anonymous posted on

Columbia Barnard combined would be the best school on the planet.

+1
-2
-1
glen b posted on

If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, right? the Democrats' great accomplishment is producing the political equivalent of a Rodney King video, clearly demonstrating the lies of the right, the right Hilary Clinton correctly identified as a vast conspiracy. Confirm by examining Central District of California Cases, 01-4340, 03-9097, 08-5515, 10-5193, US Tax Court 12000-07L --though I think you want to view my US Tax Court Appeal to the 9th Circuit for a good account of their day to day assaults, a few month time slice indicative of a decade of assault, and more recently 9th Circuit case 11-56043.

+1
-1
-1