What do you do if you are the nation’s oldest all female private college and one of your female students is about to be given a penis as part of a sax change surgery?
Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina was founded by Moravian Church in 1772. It is the oldest all female college in the US and the 13th oldest of all colleges in the nation. It has a student enrollment of around 1100 students. The only male students allowed are those involved in the teacher education graduate program. They must be 23 years or older, not allowed to live on campus or have any participation with the traditional undergraduate campus.
One of their female undergraduates that lives on campus, is undergoing a sex change. In February, she is scheduled to have gender reassignment surgery, giving her a penis and finalizing her transformation into a man.
Now, school officials are not sure what to do. Do they maintain their 250 year old tradition of no male undergraduate students? If they do, are they placing themselves in a position for a federal discrimination lawsuit? Under Title IX of US law, it is illegal for schools to discriminate on the basis of gender, however, religious schools are exempt from specific sections of the Title. Since Salem College is still affiliated with the Moravian Church of America, they may qualify for those religious exemptions.
To help them decide, they posed the question to faculty, staff and resident students, but the results of that questioning has not been revealed. A number of alumni heard about the questionnaire and were upset that they weren’t asked for their opinions. Some of the alumni did express concern that if the student was allowed to remain on campus, that the board of trustees would give in to pressure and allow the college to become coed. Annie Webb, a 2005 graduate of Salem College, sent an email reading in part:
“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.”
Charles Blixt, chairman of the board of trustees responded to Webb’s email:
“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.”
When asked what the trustees plan to do about the transgender student, Blixt responded:
“I don’t know whether we will decide on anything or develop a policy on transgender students.”
A number of other women’s colleges already have official policies that cover transgender issues, but Salem does not have such a policy. I bet they wish they had one now.
So what would you do? They have policies that state that no males can be undergraduates and they are not allowed to live on campus. Therefore, I would believe that they would be justified in expelling the gender changing student. After all, she had to know about the school’s policies before undergoing her transformation and therefore knowingly violated school policy. Even though this sounds right and should be legal, today’s liberal courts would not see it that way, I’m sure, and rule against the school if it does go to court.