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Salem College Considers Transgender Policy

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CREDIT: Flickr/ Larry wfu

An undergraduate transgender student at the nation's oldest, historically all-female Salem College, a private college in North Carolina, is due to undergo his gender confirmation surgery in February—and Salem's administrators are unsure if they should maintain their 250-year-old tradition in the face of possible public outcry or a potential lawsuit.

Under Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, it is illegal for schools to discriminate on the basis of gender however, religious schools are exempt from specific sections of the amendment. Salem College is still affiliated with the Moravian Church of America, qualifying for those religious exemptions.

An article in Political Outcast details the email correspondence between a female alumna and Charles Blixt, the chairman of the board of trustees. In the email Blixt told the alumna that, "the board will not consider becoming a coed institution," adding "this is the oldest women’s college in the country, and we intend to remain so.”

What does that mean for this transgender student? According to one report from a local Fox affiliate, Salem College is looking to develop a transgender policy, stating that other women’s colleges have implemented transgender policies and that it should consider one of its own. Salem College has declined, however, to release any statements regarding the specific policies the college may consider with no official timetable for the resolution.

“More and more women’s colleges are gradually becoming more comfortable with students transitioning at their schools. Part of that is having clear policies that permit students who meet the academic requirements of their institution to graduate regardless of their changing medical history," said Vincent Villano, director of communications for the National Center for Transgender Equality.

While some policies are more inclusive of transgender students, others are not. Hollins University, a small institute located in Virginia, issued a policy to students in the school's student handbook. According to the policy:

“If a degree-seeking undergraduate student initiates sex reassignment from female to male (as defined by the university below) at any point during her time at Hollins, she will not be permitted to continue attending Hollins beyond the conclusion of the term in which sex reassignment is initiated, and under no circumstances will such student be allowed to graduate from Hollins.”

The statement made the intentions of the university clear, but is the policy fair to transgender students who are in the process of discovering their identities?

"Probing student’s sexual anatomy, or kicking a student out because they are transitioning is simply wrong."Villano told Campus Progress, "While most women’s colleges approach this issue on a case-by-case basis, Salem College would benefit from a policy that allows their transgender students to maintain their privacy and focus on their learning,”

Charlie is a communications intern for Campus Progress.

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