Time for a Change in Barnard’s Transgender Policy

by Jessica Gregory

Will Barnard Gates be open for transgender women?

On February third, Barnard is hosting the second of five community forums, held to discuss
Barnard’s policy regarding admission of trans women to the college. These community forums are exclusively open to Barnard students & parents, faculty & staff, and alumnae. Other schools of Columbia are not permitted to engage in the talks.

Perhaps the addition of the greater Columbia community to the forums would be…overbearing? In addition, Columbia is not dealing with the issue of gender and admission since the University is already co-ed, but Barnard is dealing with a policy that allows for only those who identify as the traditional definition of a female to be admitted. As said in an e-mail Barnard sent out, “Federal law permits [Barnard] to discriminate in admissions on the basis of sex.” Whether the decision to keep the conversation on Barnard’s side of Broadway is a beneficial one or not, students are divided.

“It makes sense to me,” one student (who prefers to remain anonymous) says, “The issue is about Barnard’s community, so why wouldn’t it be an issue decided exclusively by the Barnard?”

This student went on to explain that she attended the first forum and felt that the atmosphere was generally supportive of allowing trans women into Barnard, and that there were multiple gender identities with a voice in the issue.

Other opinions believe that keeping the forum Barnard-exclusive is not in line with the intention that the forums claim to have.

Although I do believe it is crucial to prioritize the voices and concerns of the Barnard community,” another student, Toni Airaksinen BC 18 said, “I still do believe that the town-hall meeting should have been open to the greater community. By requiring people to have a current Barnard ID to have a dialogue about trans-women on campus, the College effectively completely shut out the demographic that they are trying to “help.” In shunning these community members (for example, prospective students and trans-women at Columbia), I believe that the conversation ultimately was not FOR trans-women, but FOR students and alumni who are not trans.

Other opinions added that if the forums are to remain Barnard exclusive, then there needs to be more visibility to when the talks are so that a diverse set of voices can be present at the upcoming forums. As of right now, the community forums are advertised here and in e-mails sent. Posters and other offline advertisement are few and far between. Students receive tons of e-mails from Barnard and the forum-related e-mails could potentially get lost.

If you want to be a part of the community forums and provide your voice on Barnard’s admissions policy, please do! The dates and times can be found here (http://barnard.edu/news/barnard-considers-transgender-enrollment-policy). Anyone who is not able to be present at the forums can use this online form to provide their input.

Jessica Gregory is a sophomore at Barnard College and a staff member of The Nine Ways of Knowing

Image courtesty of hercampus.com


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