Students at a private Virginia women’s college are seeking an admissions change whereby gender non-binary individuals would be allowed to apply.
According to NPR, the small Hollins University still specifically excludes non-binary applicants, despite changing policy a few years ago to allow female students transitioning to male to remain matriculated until graduation.
Hollins’ “guiding principle” continues to be consideration of applicants who “consistently live and identify as women.”
“That’s crazy,” says Hollins senior Kendall Sanders, who identifies as non-binary and goes by “they/them” pronouns. “My womanness, my femininity does not define me,” they said.
Sophomore Willow Seymour, who just began identifying as “genderqueer,” says it’s “pretty offensive [for Hollins] to exclude nonbinary people” because it’s not just those who identify as women that seek “refuge from patriarchal structures.”
Junior Jaiya McMillan said the current admissions structure is “something that should be phased out,” and added there are students at Hollins “who are going places who are not just women.”
Hollins professor LeeRay Costa, a “feminist cultural anthropologist” who teaches courses such as “Girlhood Studies” and “Whiteness: Race, Power, and Privilege,” said if she were in charge at the school, she’d admit anyone “whose gender makes them marginalized in society.”
Costa added she’s not worried about Hollins losing its sense of “woman-ness” as she “rejects that binary.”
Nevertheless, Hollins Board of Trustees Chair Alexandra Trower stands firm on the university’s identification as a women’s school: “We’re very clear and open about what our mission is. And people have a choice about where they go to university.”
In an interview with NPR […] Trower responded: “I have a lot of compassion and empathy for [students’ different] feelings. But we are a women’s institution.”
Not just a historically women’s college, Trower emphasized, but a present women’s college — which is important, she said, at a time when women have still not achieved equity. …
Trower concedes that it’s possible the Board’s thinking on this will evolve. That’s the message, too, from Hollins’ president, Mary Dana Hinton, who took office in 2020, after the revised admissions policy was already in place.
“My heart aches at the thought of someone feeling unseen, unaffirmed, uncared-for,” Hinton says. “And I don’t think it’s unexpected that we will continue to listen and learn and reassess the policy as needed.”
Hollins is one of the oldest women’s higher ed institutions in the country, and men are permitted to enroll in its graduate courses.
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