February 9, 2015
Dear Faculty, Students and Staff,
Earlier today Chair Arlene Gibson sent a message about the Bryn Mawr Board of Trustees’ decision on mission that will shape our undergraduate admissions policy as we move forward. At the heart of the Board’s decision is an affirmation of Bryn Mawr’s mission as a women’s college. I believe that there continues to be an important role for women’s colleges in the education and empowerment of intellectually engaged, reflective and ethical women leaders. I am also pleased that the Board elected to link this historic role with an even more inclusive approach to fulfilling it, one that reflects Bryn Mawr’s current identity as a place that values diversity as essential to its excellence.
I am grateful to the many people who initiated a conversation about Bryn Mawr today and for the multi-perspective discussions that followed. Those who took up this issue raised important questions with which it is incumbent upon all of us to grapple — questions that help clarify both our historic commitment and ways in which we need to recast it for current times. While this process has not been easy, these moments of awareness-raising, dialogue and respectful debate are a defining characteristic of this College.
The next step in the College’s process will be to update our admissions policy to reflect the Board’s decision and guidelines. The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions will take on this work and will consult more broadly as needed. I expect a new admissions policy to be posted to Bryn Mawr’s website by the end of April, well in time for the next admissions cycle. In the meantime, there will be a link on the admissions website to the press release containing the Board’s recommendation.
Inherent in the Board’s decision is the awareness that gender is fluid and that traditional notions of gender identity and expression can be limiting. As we affirm Bryn Mawr’s identity as a women’s college, we do so knowing that our students, as well as other members of the community, will continue to explore, negotiate and/or reject various concepts of gender. Indeed such critical engagement with social constructs is an important part of our educational purpose. As an institution we will continue to embrace that gender complexity as an opportunity for learning and for asking how to be the best women’s college possible.
We recognize that students may express new gender identities while at Bryn Mawr and beyond. Such students may worry that the College will no longer value them if those explorations take them on a different gender pathway. The Board’s decision affirms our commitment to all of our current and future students whom we will continue to welcome, support and proudly claim as our alumnae/i. Our women-centered focus is not intended to exclude any members of this special community, but it is a fundamental part of our undergraduate mission that the Board has affirmed. It is my hope that we will embrace this mission and that as a community we will find ways to “live it” that are true to its strength and focus, but that bring all of us together under its umbrella. We must all benefit and thrive. I am excited to work with the different campus constituencies, institutional structures and student organizations as we move forward to realize this ideal.
For those who want to talk more about next steps or have questions about the Board’s decision, I will be holding a special set of office hours tomorrow, February 10 from 9:00 to 11:00 am.
Wishing you all the best,