All scheduled community forums have taken place. We value your feedback on this important topic and will update the community when a decision has been reached.

The following message was sent to the Barnard community on Monday December 11, 2014.

Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

Over the past year, as you are likely aware, there has been an increased awareness of transgender issues across our society, and a growing recognition that, for many people, gender identity is more complicated and ambiguous than was once commonly believed to be the case. As a result, many organizations – from the U.S. military to the International Olympic Committee – are grappling with the implications of unraveling gender distinctions that in an earlier time were considered absolute. For women’s colleges, these questions are particularly profound. Because we are women’s colleges, after all, dedicated both philosophically and legally to educating only women. Federal law permits us to discriminate in admissions on the basis of sex, and we do. We do not accept men for admission. At Barnard, we have no formal policy addressing transgender applicants because, until recently, we hadn’t needed one. Instead, our long-time practice has been to review each application individually, and to admit only students who identify, in the traditional sense, as women.

With changes afoot all around, however, and a mission that requires us to “address issues of gender in all of their complexity and urgency,” the time has come for us to examine how we, as a women’s college, define “women,” and how, consequently, we both admit and graduate students. To this end, the Board of Trustees has engaged in a series of conversations over the past few months, seeking to learn as much as possible about this complex set of issues. At the same time, members of our senior staff have been exploring the implications of any potential policy change, ranging from legal issues to those affecting campus life.

Yesterday, the Board of Trustees met on campus, and the Committee on Campus Life, co-chaired by trustees Diana Vagelos ’55 and Frances Sadler ‘72, convened to discuss transgender policy, and to hear from various experts on the topic. The Committee reported its conversations to the full Board, and intends to meet for further discussions in March. As a next step, and to inform the Board’s deliberations, we are now planning a series of community-wide town halls in January and February, the details of which are below. We hope that many of you will be able to participate, and to add your voices to this very important conversation.

Meanwhile, because we know that not everyone in our community will be able to join our on-campus forums, we have created an online form as well. Please share your thoughts with me and members of the senior administration, to inform these meetings or simply to voice your feelings. All responses will be kept strictly confidential.

This is a complicated moment in Barnard’s history, but also a fascinating and important one. We look forward to engaging with you as we consider next steps, and to shaping Barnard’s future in a way that truly reflects its mission, its people, and its core values.

Debora Spar

Read coverage of this announcement in The New York Times