Stephens College, an all-women’s college that previously admitted only transgender people who were born female, has changed its admissions policy to accept transgender women and some non-binary students.
The Columbia, Missouri-based college, which is the second-oldest college that remains all-women in the US, states in its current enrollment policy that it will “admit and enroll students who were not born female, but who identify and live as women.”
Furthermore, the school will also welcome students who were “born female but who identify as nonbinary.”
The fine print, however, reveals multiple limitations. Transgender women who wish to attend the school will be required to provide documentation showing that “they are legally women or that they are transitioning to female.” Additionally, the school will not admit non-binary students who are transitioning to males, and students who are enrolled and then transition to male will be able to stay only through the current semester (except for those whose studies started before the new policy’s implementation).
The school’s board of trustees unanimously approved the policy change. Stephens followed the lead of other women’s colleges such as Mills College, Mount Holyoke College, Wellesley College, and Barnard College, in addition to other institutions that implemented more transgender-friendly policies.
A timeline on the school’s website shows that Stephens College was considering changes to the policy since 2014 when the Obama administration issued a new guidance defining gender identity as a person’s “internal sense of being male or female.” That same year, the school created a task force on gender diversity and inclusion.
In 2016, the task force invited the school’s legal counsel to address the campus community in an effort to help its members understand legal issues related to transgender policies. Readings related to admissions policies were shared with all faculty members at the school.
The school introduced a “new data interface” in the spring of 2017 allowing students to identify with a preferred name and pronoun to be used on all college documents except their transcripts.
This past July, Stephens College alums, faculty and staff, and current students were surveyed about the transgender policy and the results were shared with the board, which opted to approve the policy unanimously.