Transgender Politics at Scripps

By Jay Marks HMC '19
LGBTQ+ Columnist

As a queer student at the 5Cs, one of the first things I did was seek out a group for other students like me. I found such a group, titled Claremont Safe Space, created by a transgender man at Pitzer. Joining the group was at first disheartening, not because it wasn’t a safe and healthy environment, but because initially, none of the people who introduced themselves were nonbinary, or identifying outside of the binary of men and women. Eventually, someone introduced himself as nonbinary, but using he/him pronouns. However, the more interesting thing about this person was that he went to Scripps. When I asked him why, he told me that he had applied early decision, deciding to just not come out for the next four years, but then had changed his mind. This brought up an interesting concept for me, because I had, until recently, thought that Scripps was an all-women’s school. Further research into this topic led me to conduct two interviews, one with Laura Stratton, Director of Admission, and the other with Charlotte Johnson, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.

The Scripps Voice: What are qualities that you look for in Scripps students?

Laura Stratton: The Scripps admission process is holistic and personal. We want to ensure that students entering Scripps can succeed in Scripps' rigorous academic environment, contribute to the intellectual community, engage in the residential experience, participate in activities that inspire them, and leave Scripps with the tools to lead productive and interesting lives. How we evaluate that is by looking at a student's academic record, multiple letters of recommendation, personal statement, standardized test scores, and (when available) interview comments and portfolios. We don't have a prescribed set of prerequisites, academic or otherwise. We do look for students who have challenged themselves appropriately, are looking for an interdisciplinary, collaborative, intensive intellectual environment, and want to be a part of a small, residential college.

TSV: How does admissions take into account students who are trans women, trans men, or gender nonconforming?

LS: This is the first year of the [transgender] admission policy, so we will be addressing that this year. First, this is the first year that students who check legal sex 'male' will be able to add Scripps on the Common App. We still retain our identity as a women's college when students search for Scripps on the Common App, though. We have also added a question to our member screen on the Common Application, which reads: Scripps College is a women’s college and considers admission for any applicant (i) whose current birth certificate reflects their sex as female or (ii) who identifies as female. If you answered that the sex on your current birth certificate is male, do you identify as a female?

According to Stratton, under the new policy, a variety of students with different gender backgrounds may apply. This includes anyone whose legal sex is female, and those whose legal sex is male but identify as female (transgender women).

The second interview, with Charlotte Johnson, addressed more of the life of students at Scripps who are transgender and/or gender-nonconforming.

TSV: Do you feel that having students who do not identify as women (i.e. trans men, gender nonconforming students) takes away from the mission of this college?

Charlotte Johnson: Our mission as a women’s college remains unchanged and we continue to acknowledge that gender inequities still exist in society. We believe that we can be gender inclusive and embrace our mission as a premier women’s college.

TSV: If you could give advice to trans and/or gender nonconforming youth about acclimating to a culture that is geared towards women, what would you say?

CJ: I would tell them to be themselves. I would also assure them that we support the intellectual and personal growth of all Scripps students, regardless of their gender identity.

Johnson maintains that the concept and the mission of Scripps as a women’s college remains pure, despite the new policy.

The responses I received from Johnson and Stratton are encouraging. Although I personally would not apply to Scripps because of my gender identity, the admissions board is inclusive of students who are legally female or who identify as such, which is a huge step in the right direction, and encouraging to transgender youth.