On Thursday, April 24, students at Smith College protested the administration over what they consider to be minimal progress to the college’s movement toward a more inclusive admissions process for transgender women. Activists in the Smith Q&A student organization are frustrated after a year’s worth of talks with administrators that recently came to a halt. These discussions were sparked by the rejection of then-high schooler Calliope Wong, a transgender woman, was rejected from Smith last spring because a federal student aid form identified her as male.
According to organizers, about 200 people were involved in the protest, which lasted from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Sarah Fraas, a member of Q&A, said she reached out to Dean of Admission Deb Shaver in an email and asked her to make a statement at the demonstration. Shaver responded to Fraas, “Thanks for the outreach. Our practices are very transparent on the web so I think there’s no need for a statement. If the media has any questions, please direct them to the College Relations office.”
The protest was held on the same day as an official admissions event for prospective students. While Smith College told MassLive.com that everything was “business as usual” and no one asked any questions about the demonstration, but Fraas told BuzzFeed in an email that admissions scooted tour groups out the back door and changed the location of the visitor parking for the entire day.
“We had multiple prospective students and multiple parents come up to us and ask us what the deal was with the rally, and all of them agreed with the cause after it was explained to them,” she explained. “They also told us that admissions staff refused to answer their questions about the protest. My friend even heard one of the parents at an information session ask, ‘Why don’t you just change the policy?’ which they promptly brushed off.”
Despite the negative messages coming from Smith’s administration, student activists are insisting the college should adopt an additional supplement for transgender applications to make the admissions process easier.
“It’s clear to me that Smith is embarrassed and desperately trying to preserve its image as a feminist institution, despite the fact that it’s discriminating against women,” Fraas told BuzzFeed. “A lot of people care about this, and we’re not going to go away.”