Salem College’s Non-Discrimination Policy Expansion:

A Jumping Point for Diversity and Inclusion?

June 28, 2017

On Tuesday, June 27, 2017, Salem College released a letter to their students, explaining that there would be an expansion of the current non-discrimination policy to include gender identity and expression. However, this expansion to gender identity and expression would only be extended to people who are assigned female at birth with an “f” still placed next to sex on their government-issued identification.

Salem College is a school that prides itself in the empowerment of women; however, they are excluding trans women from attending the college as traditional students (22 years and under).

Trans men and trans non-binary students who have a female designation on their government forms of identity at admission will be permitted to attend the institution and graduate. There are not currently any portions of the policy that will allow trans women, under the age of 23, who want to attend the college to do so, if they still have a male designation on their government identification.

In a time when trans women’s lives are constantly attacked, it is important to recognize that trans women need support. It is important to note that they need support, and that they need to be seen as real women. No document should be used to dictate that. Those from more traditional backgrounds are against allowing trans women to attend single-sex institutions because many of these people do not view them as real women. There is great hope from many people on the more progressive side of this issue that trans women will be able to attend single-sex institutions without having to “prove” their value to the institution through government identification.

This is a good start for the oldest continuously running women’s college in the United States. Salem College administration has also released a Q & A to its students that help answer some of the questions that they have, including what steps will be taken to support trans students that do attend Salem College, as well as any trainings that can help support a culture of diversity and inclusiveness on the campus.

In the question and answer document, it is written that there will be trans sensitivity trainings offered to students, faculty, and staff; however, it is not clear as to whether those trainings will be led by trans people. There has not been any information forthcoming about who will be leading the trainings, how often the trainings will take place, and how the trainings will be conducted.

Though there are parts of this expansion that trouble both sides of this issue, there have been a lot of things that Salem College has done that other single-sex institutions in the south may not have done. There is much work to be done on this expansion of the non-discrimination policy, but this is a great start for the Salem College community. Hopefully, they will continue to work for inclusion and diversity, especially for the student body.