Dear Members of the Barnard Community —

At its June 3 meeting, the Barnard College Board of Trustees discussed and approved the following policy regarding enrollment for transgender applicants:

Since its founding in 1889, Barnard’s mission has been to provide generations of promising, high-achieving young women with an outstanding liberal arts education in a community where women lead.  Every aspect of this unique environment is, and always will be, designed and implemented to serve women, and to prepare our graduates to flourish and make a difference in the world.  This mission is powerful, and remains vital today, perhaps more so than ever.

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.  We will also continue to use gendered language that reflects our identity as a women’s college. 

This admissions policy does not affect students who transition during their time at Barnard. Once admitted, every student will receive the individualized support that is an essential part of the Barnard experience. If, during a student’s time at Barnard, the student decides that Barnard, as a women’s college, no longer offers an appropriate educational environment, Barnard will offer guidance and resources to assist in making choices that are best for that student.

The vote on this policy is the culmination of a full year of conversations. The Board, led by the Committee on Campus Life, discussed the issue of transgender enrollment at each of its meetings this year. Members of the Board and the administration read through extensive materials; consulted experts, including members of the Barnard faculty; and sought out the broadest possible range of perspectives. And hundreds of members of our community—students, faculty, alumnae, parents, and staff—participated in five town hall forums and one virtual forum. In addition, an online form collected over 900 responses.

What came through most strongly was that our community shares a deep love for Barnard and a desire to do the right thing for this institution. As expected, a wide range of passionate and deeply held beliefs were discussed and debated. But on two main points, the responses were compelling and clear. There was no question that Barnard must reaffirm its mission as a college for women. And there was little debate that trans women should be eligible for admission to Barnard.

Following these months of discussion, a policy was recommended by the Chairs of the Committee on Campus Life, reviewed by the Executive Committee, and approved by the full Board on June 3, 2015. Over the course of the upcoming academic year, our staff will develop a plan for implementation that will go into effect for applicants applying for admission in the fall of 2016 (the Barnard Class of 2020).

We want to thank all of you for being a part of this effort, especially our students, who pushed us to think broadly and to stand behind our commitment to diversity. We also want to extend a special note of gratitude to Frances Sadler ’72 and Diana Vagelos ’55 who thoughtfully shepherded the Committee on Campus Life as they considered this important issue.

On the occasion of our 125th anniversary, it is fitting that we have come together to recall our history and reexamine our core values.  We educated and challenged each other, and Barnard is that much stronger for it.


Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald
Chair of the Board of Trustees
Debora Spar


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