Reaffirmation of Mission and Announcing Gender Policy

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.