Students at the all-women private liberal arts college, Wellesley College in Massachusetts, backed a non-binding referendum on Tuesday. The “Gender Inclusivity Ballot” aims to permit women who identify as men and non-binary individuals to apply to the college. However, school officials have stated that the student vote will not impact the institution's policies or practices.
Wellesley College, which boasts alumni such as Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright, already accepts transgender students who were born male. The controversial referendum seeks to expand the application process to include women who identify as men.
Last month, student body officials voted unanimously to advance the ballot, which would allow students to express their opinions on the 150-year-old institution's admissions policy and encourage more inclusive language.
Student body president Alexandra Brooks told the New York Times, "Trans men go to Wellesley, non-binary people go to Wellesley, and they kind of always have." She added that they were merely asking the administration to put on paper what was already true of the student body.
Elizabeth Um, a senior and president of the campus' pro-life group, Wellesley For Life, enrolled at the college due to its identity as a women's college and its close proximity to her home. She warned against diluting the core identity of the school as a women's college, even though she did not disclose her stance on the referendum.
Wellesley College President Paula Johnson opposed the ballot and reminded students that the results would not influence the college's admissions policy. She emphasized that Wellesley admits applicants who identify and live consistently as women, regardless of the gender assigned at birth.
The Wellesley News editorial board disapproved of Johnson's letter, labeling it as "the College's transphobic rhetoric" and reaffirming that transgender and non-binary students have always belonged and will continue to belong at Wellesley, a historically women's college.