Letter to the Editor

Ginna Brelsford ’02

I am writing to express my grave disappointment in the leadership of Smith College with regard to the recently exposed policy on eligibility of transwomen applicants to the College.

This is not just about Calliope Wong; this is about the value we place on diversity in women’s education. I am disappointed because had Ms. Wong not needed to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, her application would have been read through the normal channels and admittance gained or denied based on her qualifications. The thought that a prospective student’s financial need is what ultimately barred her admission is simply wrong.

I am disappointed by the utter lack of response by the College. I understand the College’s position that admitting a student who is legally marked as “Male” on a government form opens the College to risk of lawsuit for not admitting other cisgendered, male-identified prospective students. But that risk can be mitigated by the creation and implementation of a policy expressly delineating the considerations the College makes in determining the eligibility of applicants.

I am disappointed by the lack of commitment to ensuring quality education for any woman who meets the standards of intellect, aptitude and potential required for admittance to the College. I am disappointed that the College has not made a public commitment to finding a way to include transwomen in the incredible traditions and opportunities a Smith College education affords. As an alumna who has benefitted greatly from my Smith education and from the Smith network; as an alumna who has worked in social justice movements at Smith College and beyond; who has worked for the College; and who has given back to the College with investments of my money and my time, I am disappointed. As an alumna who has boasted about my affiliation with Smith College through a Smith College sticker on my car, through a Smith College pennant in my office, through conversations about how amazing my time at Smith College was, I am ashamed by what I perceive to be a lack of commitment to justice.

I urge the leadership of Smith College to develop an inclusive policy to remove the barriers faced by transwomen who seek to become a part of the Smith tradition. Their contributions can only enrich an already vibrant and engaged community of students and alumnae – and their exclusion can only diminish the education and tradition in which I take such pride.

Sincerely,

Ginna Brelsford ’02

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