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Mount Holyoke College's gender inclusion policies endure despite negative responses


Mary Lyon Hall at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. The college has a new policy that refers to the student body as students instead of women.

As women's colleges across the country assess their policies toward transgender and nonbinary students, Mount Holyoke College is making headlines for its moves to promote inclusion on campus.

The diversity policies of the college, which is a member of the Seven Sisters colleges, made news recently as a result of the school's guidelines to staff on its Teaching and Learning Initiative. 

Under the initiative’s section “Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Students,” the policy advises educators to refer to the student body as "Mount Holyoke students" rather than "Mount Holyoke women" and avoid statements like “We’re all women here.”

It also tells teachers to use gender-neutral language whenever possible, especially in syllabi and written communication.

Amy L., a senior at Mount Holyoke who did not want to use her last name for publication, said she believes her school is going in the right direction with its diversity and inclusion policies. 

“As much as I love this place, I don’t think any place is perfect, but we’re making strides in the right direction in terms of embodying what it means to be at an inclusive college,” she said.

Amy wasn’t surprised about the policy and was more surprised that it wasn’t already in place. 

“We have a trans-inclusive policy at Mount Holyoke, and we’re gender inclusive here, so we’re going to use the language that embodies those policies that they’ve embraced,” she said.

Mount Holyoke’s transgender admissions policy was developed in the summer of 2014 after Mills College became the first single-sex U.S. college to accept applications from any eligible students that self-identify as female. 

Today, the school admits transgender women, transgender men and nonbinary students and allows students who have transitioned to graduate.

The school’s institutional policies include answers to several questions about transgender admissions, including, “Is Mount Holyoke still a women’s college?”

In the answer, the school said it is still committed to its mission as a women’s college but recognizes what it means to be a woman is not only a statistic. 

“Just as early feminists argued that the reduction of women to their biological functions was a foundation for women’s oppression, we must acknowledge that gender identity is not reducible to the body,” the statement said. 

Under the school’s admissions policy, undergraduate applications are accepted from qualified students that are female or identify as women. This includes trans men who were assigned female at birth.

Amy said she first heard about the news from a Fox News segment, which criticized the school’s policy.

In the segment, a commentator said the policy was an example of administrators and leftist progressives inserting political views into speech codes and classroom policies.

“You can’t have an all-female school, but you don't have to be female to be here,” they said. 

Throughout the segment, Mount Holyoke was referred to as an all-women’s college, with the reporter joking that she wasn’t allowed to say that anymore and had to call it an “all-students' school.” 

Amy said calling Mount Holyoke an all-women’s college doesn’t encompass her school. 

“Yes, I go to a women's college, but I understand that it's not an all women's college,” she said. 

She said that when asked about the school she attends, she says she goes to an inclusive women’s college.

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“I wouldn’t say all women because that excludes the people who are nonbinary and don’t conform to gender norms,” she said.

In a statement given to Fox News, the school acknowledged that not every Mount Holyoke student identifies as a woman and that every student has a right to a hostility-free environment there.

“I think by referring to us as students, which we all are, it just creates an inclusive environment for learning,” Amy said.