Tag Archives: Admissions

The End of the Women’s College

Back in 2010, 76 percent of the Scripps College student body voted in favor of a measure to make the language of its student constitution more inclusive of those who did not identify as female at the college. Instances of “she,” “her,” and “women,” among other terms, were replaced with gender- and sex-neutral phrases, such as “the student” or “students.”

Now that the Scripps administration has issued a new policy that allows for the intentional admission of transmen and -women, will it pick up where the students left off?

Effective in the fall of 2016, Scripps will consider applicants for admission “who report that the sex currently listed on their birth certificate is female” (including transmen) and “who self-identify as women” (i.e., transwomen). The college advertised the admissions policy in a Dec. 6 letter as one that “reiterates Scripps’ identity as a women’s college.” According to a FAQ page that the college created to address the new admissions policy, “the broader purpose of the women’s college has always been to provide a safe haven to build the minds of the gender marginalized in our culture.”

The proffered excuse for the new policy – that women’s colleges are really institutions for the “gender marginalized” of society – strikes one as little more than an ad hoc rationalization. Scripps had an end – touting the popular liberal stance on the issue of transgenderism without compromising its identity as a women’s college – and invented the means to get there.

But, of course, women’s colleges were not created as institutions for every subset of the gender-marginalized of society. They were created as institutions in which to educate one particular group discriminated against in the higher-education market: women. And regardless of one’s opinion on the politics of transgenderism, one of these groups, either transmen or transwomen, must be considered men. The intentional admission of men to an institution created for the purpose of educating only women does not reaffirm, but is rather a radical departure from, that institution’s identity.

Although the reasoning behind Scripps’ new policy is dubious, will it have any tangible consequences? Not only could transmen who applied as women already attend the college, but admitting a few transwomen would seem to have a negligible effect on the Scripps student body and the experience of the average Scripps student.

As the administration rightly points out on the FAQ page, because of its situation as a member of the Claremont Colleges, Scripps has never been a space only for women. Even though Scripps will now intentionally admit men, men from the other colleges can already attend classes at Scripps, eat at the dining hall, and access many of the college’s facilities as frequently as Scripps students themselves. The primary logistical problem that the policy presents concerns on-campus housing, but there are many remedies available to the Scripps administration to ensure that every student is comfortable with his or her living arrangement.

Yet, the policy still threatens to change Scripps irrevocably through a more subtle mechanism. It is not the physical presence of men, but rather the collision of the transgender movement with the values of the modern liberal campus that will ultimately be Scripps’ undoing.

On a campus where every distinction is a “micro-aggression,” every potentially offensive idea accompanied by a “trigger warning,” and every hurt feeling satiated in its demands for reparations, Scripps cannot survive the politics of transgenderism unscathed.

Although Scripps rationalized its new admissions policy with the purpose of serving the gender-marginalized, it will have to uproot many of its traditions and significantly alter its campus in order to ensure that those it claims to be protecting from gender-marginalization do not actually feel marginalized by expressions of gender at the college.

Take, for instance, the college’s unofficial motto, “The Women’s College”: How does a motto that excludes a segment of students at Scripps – on a particularly sensitive distinction, no less – aid Scripps in its mission to serve as a safe haven for the gender-marginalized? Will the Dean of Students Office dismiss the complaints of a male student who feels marginalized and out of place because of the women-centric rhetoric at the college – as if he were not really a member of the community – as if he were invisible? Will an energetic group of student activists – who already voted to rid their own bylaws of any reference to those with two X chromosomes – really stand for such injustice?

Why not change the motto to something more inclusive, such as “Scripps College: College of the Gender-Marginalized”? Or, to take a page out of the student handbook, “Scripps College: The Students’ College.” At the very least, “Scripps College: The [Trigger Warning!] Women’s College.”

And there are other elements of Scripps’ campus that demand revision. When Scripps ornaments its campus with papier-mâché molds of the female anatomy, students who lack such a body, but still view themselves as women, may feel their gender identity being compromised before their very eyes. Mount Holyoke College, an all-women’s school in Massachusetts, will no longer perform The Vagina Monologues for this very reason.

Indeed, the experiences of other women’s colleges are indicative of what Scripps can come to expect. Although Wellesley College, a women’s college in Massachusetts, has not revised its admissions policy to include transwomen, it has become embroiled in the national debate because of the advocacy of several transmen who are alumni of the college, such as Alex Poon, who graduated in 2012. In her New York Times essay, entitled “When Women Become Men at Wellesley,” Ruth Padawer recounts Poon’s experience of winning Wellesley’s hoop-rolling race, a 131-year-old tradition at the college:

A small local newspaper covered the event, noting that for the first time in the school’s history, the winner was a man. And yet the page on Wellesley’s website devoted to school traditions continues to describe the race as if it involves only women. “Back in the day, it was proclaimed that whoever won the Hoop Roll would be the first to get married. In the status-seeking 1980s, she was the first to be C.E.O. Now we just say that the winner will be the first to achieve happiness and success, whatever that means to her.” But Alex isn’t a her, and he told me that his happiness and success includes being recognized for what he is: a man.

By continuing to call itself a women’s college and decorating its campus with references to “sisterhood” and other exclusionary terms and images, transgender students may feel overlooked at Scripps, like Poon and others have at Wellesley.

Perhaps the all-women’s college has simply lived long enough to see itself become an outdated institution in the battle for progress. Progress seems to dictate that Scripps no longer call itself a “women’s college,” stop referring to its students as “women,” and rid its campus of any inordinate expressions of sisterhood.

After that, what is it, really? Certainly not a women’s college in any meaningful sense of the term.

And, frankly, that is tragic, especially for alumni who are rightfully concerned about where this new admissions policy threatens to take a beloved college that they thought crucial to their development as women.

Somehow “Scripps College: The Students’ College” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

The Farce of Two CMCs: A Rebuttal to The Student Life

In today’s knowledge-based economy, higher education has become increasingly important in influencing social and economic prosperity. Unfortunately, education is an opportunity that is still not afforded to many. In an effort to alleviate this problem, colleges have tried to implement policies such as affirmative action to increase racial diversity. To increase socio-economic diversity, they have used tools such as Pell Grants and need blind admissions. In the TSL’s “A Tale of Two CMCs,” Carlos Ballesteros argues that CMC has actively sought to exclude low-income minority students from the student body. Ballesteros points out that, as international student admission numbers have risen, the admission of low-income minority students has fallen. This is relevant since CMC does not offer any financial aid to international students outside of merit scholarships, implying that international students have financial means that many others do not. He also states that, as this change has occurred, the college has simultaneously ended relations with Quest Bridge and Posse (two highly selective scholarship programs for low-income minorities). This, Ballesteros argues, supports his belief that CMC is cynically replacing low-income students with wealthy international students. There are, however, two problems in his analysis.

At the beginning of the article, Ballesteros tries to establish an implausible causal link in the general correlation between the rise of international students and decrease in low-income students; however, as we are told so many times in our statistics classes, correlation does not signify causation. A more plausible hypothesis could be that the overall number of low-income students applying to CMC has decreased in the aftermath of the Great Recession. According to the College Board’s college guidance outlines, many first generation students are not very knowledgeable about the college application process and/or are pressured to enter the workforce earlier. Keeping this in mind, due to the Great Recession and the slow recovery afterward, many low-income students probably entered the workforce instead of going to college, or opted for a more practical, skill-based education at a larger state school. Furthermore, research has shown that low-income students are less likely to apply to college in general (Fitzgerald and Delaney 2002; McDonough 1997; McDonough 1998), and are also less likely to enroll at more elite colleges (Bowen and Bok 1998; Hurtado et al. 1997)

Ballesteros also fails to give a full picture of economic diversity by limiting the scope of argument to the number of Pell grant recipients,. This is because Pell grants are fundamentally limited in their ability to measure economic diversity. Pell Grants are granted based on financial need versus cost of the school, and up to $50,000 in income. The maximum amount of funds that a student can receive through Pell grants amounts to exactly $5730. This equates to approximately 13% of CMC’s $45,000 tuition. Considering that this is such a small portion of CMC’s tuition, it is conceivable that falling Pell grant rates might actually mean that many low-income students are simply pursuing better scholarship options. Ballesteros’ argument also presupposes that the decreasing numbers of Pell grant recipients enrolled at CMC automatically implies a decrease in “economic diversity.” However, as David Leonhardt of Upshot says, “A college that enrolls many students from families making $75,000 a year may be somewhat more economically diverse than a college with an identical share of Pell recipients but fewer middle-income students.” Therefore, a better, more accurate measure of economic diversity would be calculating the number of students in each income bracket.

Additionally, Ballesteros critiques CMC’s decision to end partnerships with Questbridge and Posse as another example of CMC replacing low-income students with international ones. For those who do not know, Questbridge and Posse are full scholarship programs for low-income, high-achieving students and only partner with 35 and 51 colleges, respectively (which is a very small percentage of the 3500+ degree granting institutions in the US). Questbridge and Posse, while great programs, are also highly competitive. According to statistics from the Questbridge website, in 2013 there were 12,818 applicants to the Questbridge program. Of those applying, only 440 became finalists who were offered admission and college match scholarships. If considered a finalist, Questbridge will match the student to a partner school that they believe is a good fit for them. Many low-income students believe that Questbridge and other related programs are the only way to pay for college, but, in fact, if these students applied to many of the partner schools independently, they would have a better chance of attending that school. This is because many colleges, like CMC, offer 100% of demonstrated need. By ending their partnership with Questbridge and Posse, CMC (whose admissions are need-blind) allows low-income students to apply directly to the school they wish to attend and have a better chance to receive the money they need to attend college.

Finally, the author proposes that one solution to alleviating the decreasing number of low-income students enrolled in CMC is an income-based affirmative action policy as a solution that, like race-based affirmative action, only treats the symptoms of a broken education system. Educational equality goes beyond equating the number of students admitted in one demographic to students admitted of another demographic. The author’s entire argument falsely rests upon the assumption that the only diversity international kids bring is in the different currencies they carry. I would like to point out that, regardless of socio-economic background, international students come from an entirely different country. They bring different perspectives and experiences, which no American, regardless of socio-economic background or race could replicate. Surely, need-blind admissions policy, which CMC has, coupled with educational system reform, is a more equitable solution.