Reaffirmation of Mission and Announcing Gender Policy
and FAQ

The creation of Wellesley College was a revolutionary act, challenging and confounding entrenched views about the roles and capacities of women. Our founders, Henry and Pauline Durant, understood that educating women confers powerful benefits on society as well as on individuals.

In recent months, our trustees and campus community have engaged in a wide-ranging discussion about what it means to be a women’s college in an era of a changing understanding of gender identity. It is clear to us that the concept of a women’s college, and the reasons for having one, are as valid today as they have been at any time in the past.

In March, the Board of Trustees approved the recommendations of the Trustee Committee on Gender and Wellesley to reaffirm Wellesley’s mission as a college dedicated to the education of women. In keeping with our mission, Wellesley will continue to welcome students into an outstanding academic environment—one designed for the women it educates. The Trustees also affirmed the importance of using language specific to the women we serve. In institutional communications, the College will continue to use female pronouns and the language of sisterhood, both of which are important components of our mission and identity. 

The Board of Trustees approved the recommendation to clarify the College’s admission policy. Wellesley will admit women who are prepared for a rigorous academic environment that challenges them to achieve at their highest potential. Wellesley will consider for admission any applicant who lives as a woman and consistently identifies as a woman. The administration and faculty will develop procedures and guidelines to implement this clarification in time for the next admission cycle.

Finally the Committee observed that Wellesley provides individualized support to every student as a valued part of the College’s culture. If, during a student’s time at Wellesley, the student no longer identifies as a woman and decides that Wellesley, as a women’s college, no longer offers an appropriate educational and social environment, Wellesley will offer guidance and resources to assist in making choices that are best for the student. 

Two important committees have guided the conversation that has led to these decisions. In early fall of 2014, President H. Kim Bottomly formed the multi-constituency campus President’s Advisory Committee on Gender and Wellesley, composed of faculty, staff, students, and alumnae, to focus on key issues relating to gender identity and to review College policies and practices in light of an evolving understanding of gender issues. At the same time, a Trustee Committee on Gender and Wellesley undertook an extensive review of educational, social, legal, and medical considerations regarding gender identity. The findings of the President’s Advisory Committee were used by the Trustee Committee to inform its recommendations to the Board of Trustees.

Despite all the progress of the past century, women still face hurdles in realizing their potential. These hurdles persist at a time when the need for the full participation of women—their voices, their intellects, and their talents—in both public and private forums—has never been greater. As the world confronts unprecedented change, Wellesley College, and its role in educating women—has never been more important. 

Sincerely,

 

FAQ

What does the Wellesley College Board of Trustees' decision mean for the Wellesley mission?

Wellesley's mission—to provide an excellent education to women who will make a difference in the world—has been reaffirmed and is strengthened by deepening our understanding of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.
 
The Board of Trustees emphasized that every aspect of Wellesley's educational program is, and will continue to be, designed and implemented to serve women and to prepare them to thrive in a complex world. This singular focus on women is a critical part of the Wellesley education and the Wellesley experience. Consistent with this commitment, the Trustees also affirmed the importance of using language specific to the women we educate. In all institutional communications, the College will continue to use female pronouns and the language of sisterhood, both of which powerfully convey important components of our mission and identity. Classroom language will remain at the discretion of the instructor.
 

What does it mean to "live as a woman and consistently identify as a woman"?

Wellesley invites applications from all those who live as women and consistently identify as women and who are prepared for a rigorous academic environment that challenges them to achieve at their highest potential.
 
"Consistently" simply denotes a student's commitment to her gender identity. If an applicant's gender identity is not clearly reflected in her application materials, the College will request additional information that may include a letter from a parent, healthcare provider, teacher, or clergy, to give a few examples.
 

Are trans men eligible for admission?

No. Wellesley is deeply committed to our mission to educate women and the College is proud of its history of graduating women who demonstrate the value of women's leadership. Wellesley does not accept applications from men. Those assigned female at birth who identify as men are not eligible for admission.
 

Are trans women eligible for admission?

Yes. Wellesley accepts applications from women. Those assigned male at birth who identify as women are eligible for admission.
 

Are individuals assigned female at birth who identify as non-binary eligible for admission?

Yes. That said, Wellesley is a college dedicated to the education of women. The College provides students with a uniquely empowering learning environment—one designed specifically to prepare women to thrive in a complex world. This singular focus on women is a critical part of the Wellesley experience. Wellesley accepts applications from those who were assigned female at birth and who feel they belong in our community of women.
 

What support will Wellesley provide if a student no longer identifies as a woman after matriculation?

We support all of our students. Once accepted to Wellesley, every student receives the full support and mentorship of College faculty, staff, and administrators through graduation. If, after being accepted, a student no longer identifies as a woman, the College will continue to support that student. If a student decides to transfer because the student would prefer another educational and social environment, Wellesley will support and facilitate that choice. If the student wishes to continue on and graduate from Wellesley, we will support that choice as well.
 

How will Wellesley implement the policy?

Appropriate departments and administrators at Wellesley will address the operational issues involved in implementing the policy on gender in the upcoming months. For example, the College will develop and implement the necessary procedures and guidelines with respect to admission policy in time for the next admission cycle, which is for Wellesley 2020 graduates.