NORTHAMPTON (AP) — Students at Smith College, which has held fast against the admission of men even as other women’s schools have gone coed, are lowering the barrier ever so slightly.
The student body voted at the end of the semester to replace the pronouns “she” and “her” with “the student” in the student constitution to cover people who are in a transgender category — a term that refers to cross-dressers, hermaphrodites and transsexuals, or those who have surgically changed their sex.
Exactly how many students this might apply to is not clear; Smith does not keep track of the number of transgender students on campus.
But as far as the administration knows, the barrier at the 132-year-old women’s college has not been broken yet by a woman changed into a man.
“We admit women,” Smith spokesman Laurie Fenlason said. “Smith is a women’s college. We do not expect to face the issue of a surgically changed woman on campus. But if we do, we’ll deal with it.”
Half of Smith’s 2,600 students voted, and the measure passed by 50 votes.
“Smith is a place that prides itself on being a comfortable place to explore lots of issues of identity, including gender identity,” said 20-year-old Jacqui Shine, who voted for the change. “That’s what colleges in general are for.”
The rewording of the student code does not represent Smith College policy and has stirred little controversy on campus and received little notice among the alumnae or beyond. But some fear it could lead to coeducation.
Among them is Kelly Koehler, who graduated from Smith two years ago. “My gut reaction to this is disappointment,” she said. “I think perhaps the [student government] has taken this too far. Will Smith cease to be a women’s college?”
Miss Fenlason gave assurances the college is not about to start accepting men.
The move comes as some colleges across the country try to accommodate students who do not identify with their sex from birth.
At coed Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., students next year will have the option of saying they do not mind if their roommate is male or female, an idea pushed by 18-year-old Zach Strassburger, who was born a female but identifies with being a male.