"I am Smith" and I am male
Published: Thursday, April 14, 2011
Updated: Friday, June 3, 2011 15:06
I am a junior at Smith College. I am an engineering and geosciences double major. I am Vice President of Hubbard House. I am a trombone player in the Umass Marching Band. I am a Gold Key guide. I am a male student and I am not hosting a prospective student today because I am not allowed to by the Admissions Office.I spent last summer struggling with my gender identity. As I came to the conclusion that I was male, I considered how this would affect my role as a student at Smith, most specifically my role as a Gold Key guide. I knew I wanted to remain a guide, and was committed to promoting Smith College as a premier educational institution for women. Most importantly, I felt that I had not changed as a person in a way that would inhibit my ability to be an ambassador for the school. I communicated with the Central Board of Gold Key about my concerns and was encouraged to continue in my role as a guide and given supportive feedback. In what I thought was a conversation with the admissions liason about my comfort level, I was questioned for an hour in a way that was inappropriate for any Gold Key guide. I was asked how my identity would impact prospective students, how they might feel having a male guide, and most inappropriately of all, whether "we will be seeing any physical changes from you." Because I am not on testosterone, I know prospective students might assume I am female, given Smith is a women's college. Their main issue was my role as an overnight host for prospective students, where my male identity would be explicit.
All Gold Key guides are required to host two overnights per semester. This rule is explicitly stated and enforced. In general, it is an enjoyed activity, an opportunity to connect with a prospective student and answer their questions. My concerns about being a male host were that some students (or myself) might be uncomfortable if they were not aware of it beforehand. My solution was to email them ahead of time, as we always do, to tell them a bit about myself including that I identify as male. They would be welcome to request a different host if they felt uncomfortable rooming with me -- no offense taken.
An additional meeting confirmed that the Admission's Office felt I should not host female students because it would be "inappropriate." It was insinuated that the real reason I was "inappropriate" was not about a male and a female sharing a room. It was about maintaining Smith's pristine image as a pearls and sweater sets kind of place. The implications were that I cannot host because prospectives should not know about me before they are enrolled and their tuition paid. If I were to host the daughter of an alumnae or a donor, admissions was concerned about potential backlash.
This week I met with the Director of Admissions. Instead of a discussion, I was immediately handed an ultimatum. I am not allowed per order of the Director of Admissions to host prospective students in my official capacity as a Gold Key guide or during open campus, today. I asked how I can be restricted from open campus, as anyone can sign up, including male students. The reply? "Because we know about you." They cannot prohibit other male students from hosting during open campus simply because they cannot enforce it. If Admissions had it their way, any male student currently hosting a prospective would not be allowed.
I am not an activist. I am not a rabble rouser and I hate confrontation. However, I cannot stand by and allow myself or future hosts to be treated in this way. I am not half a Gold Key guide, allowed only half the duties. I am, like all students here, an asset to this school. To hosts reading this, enjoy today and show your prospective students what Smith is all about. To other male hosts, I wish I could share this experience with you. To prospective students, know that Smith can open many doors for you. The real Smith teaches you to stand up for what you believe in. It gives you the strength to write an article like this. Smith students, I hope you show them the real Smith, the one made up of students like you and me.