Earlier today, Barnard College's board of trustees announced the fateful decision with this declaration:
"In furtherance of our mission, tradition and values as a women's college, and in recognition of our changing world and evolving understanding of gender identity, Barnard will consider for admission those applicants who consistently live and identify as women, regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth."
Barnard's identity as a women's college is extremely important; it has provided students like me with a place to fully explore the academic world and one's own identity at the same time. Columbia and other universities may have gone co-ed since Barnard's founding, but we still live in a world where people are discriminated against and marginalized because of their gender identity. Institutions like Barnard are needed to actively combat this discrepancy, and as a Barnard student, I am proud to be a part of this struggle. But until today, Barnard was ignoring a significant part of its mission. Trans women are women, and so they are meant to be included in the Barnard community.
Even today, trans women, particularly trans women of color, are some of the most marginalized people in our society. Many trans women are assaulted or denied jobs simply because of their identity. Most convicted trans women are sent to male prisons. Countless trans women are unable to receive proper health care, and an unbelievable number still struggle to even get their identity recognized by the law. In other words, our society has an extremely long way to go when it comes to acceptance of trans individuals. At the school's founding, Barnard committed itself to fighting gender discrimination, and today Barnard has taken another step toward fulfilling this promise.
Women's colleges across the country have wrestled with this very issue. Earlier this year, Smith College decided to admit trans women, and other Seven Sisters colleges have done the same. While Barnard has taken longer to come to a resolution, its students have been very vocal about their desire for inclusion. Caleb LoSchiavo, a recent Barnard graduate, wrote for Refinery 29: "In the past three years, I have done things that I've been told were impossible — that have never been done before at Barnard. The school didn't have gender-inclusive bathrooms before I got here, and I helped to create them on both Barnard's and Columbia's campuses... It has been emotionally and physically exhausting at times, but it's worth every second if it means I've made the process easier for even just one student in the future."
The school at large may have been debating this admissions issue for only the past year, but Barnard students have been fighting even longer. Students like LoSchiavo truly believe in Barnard's mission, which is why they fought so hard for things like gender-inclusive restrooms. And now the board of trustees is finally following suit. I am a cis woman, or a woman who identifies with the gender she was assigned at birth. I am a Barnard cis woman, and I am overjoyed to say that I now attend a women's college that accepts cis and trans women alike.
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