An undergraduate student at a small women’s college in North Carolina is seeking permission to stay at the school — and live on campus — after she undergoes gender reassignment surgery in February, which will finalize her transformation into a man.
Officials at the school, Salem College, are now considering the thorny issue, reports the Winston-Salem Journal.
Michelle Melton, Salem’s director of communications, would not identify the transgender student. She cited federal privacy laws, as well as the school’s confidentiality policies, according to the Journal.
Founded in 1772 by Moravians, Salem College is a private liberal arts school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s the 13th-oldest college in the country, and the oldest female educational establishment that remains a women’s college.
The school enrolls some 1,100 students. The 800 undergrads are all female, and only females are currently allowed to live on campus. Men who are at least 23 years old can participate in teacher education graduate programs and take adult education courses. However, they cannot live on or be part of the traditional undergraduate campus.
The school administration recently canvassed faculty, staff and residential students — but not alumnae – on how the school should react. Among the questions asked, the Journal notes, was, “In light of our mission to educate women, how do you view the issue of transgender students in the traditional college program at Salem?”
The prospect of the transgender student living on campus has angered some alumnae.
Annie Webb, a 2005 graduate, alerted other alums that the unnamed student will go under the knife next month. Among Webb’s chief concerns is her fear that this sex-change operation could become one factor that will lead Salem’s trustees to make the school coed.
“Unfortunately, the feeling from other alumnae with whom I’ve spoken is that there is very little trust in the board or the administration to maintain Salem’s women college status,” Webb’s email read, according to the Journal.
Charles Blixt, who chairs the 31-member board of trustees called Webb’s concerns meritless.
“The board will not consider becoming a coed institution,” he told the Journal. “This is the oldest women’s college in the country, and we intend to remain so.”
Unlike some other women’s colleges, Salem College doesn’t have an official transgender policy.
“I don’t know whether we will decide on anything or develop a policy on transgender students,” Blixt said, adding that the trustees have no timetable for making any decision.
Gender-based discrimination is illegal at colleges and universities in the United States under Title IX, a portion of a 1972 federal law. However, religious schools are exempted from certain parts of the law.
Salem College remains affiliated with the Moravian Church in America.