- Saint Mary’s College, a Roman Catholic women's institution in Indiana, has reversed its decision to allow transgender women to apply for its undergraduate programs.
- Officials rolled back the new policy, which was set to take effect this year, after it drew condemnation from alumnae and local church leadership.
- "Some worried that this was much more than a policy decision: they felt it was a dilution of our mission or even a threat to our Catholic identity,” President Katie Conboy and Board Chair Maureen Karantz Smith said in a Dec. 21 letter announcing the policy reversal. "We lost people's trust and unintentionally created division where we had hoped for unity.”
The college's governing board amended its nondiscrimination policy in June to allow for undergraduate applicants “whose sex is female or who consistently live and identify as women.” Saint Mary's graduate programs are open to men and women.
In November, Conboy told students and staff that the change to undergraduate admissions would take place in fall 2024, according to The Observer, a student newspaper covering Saint Mary's.
However, the decision received significant pushback, including from Bishop Kevin Rhoades, whose diocese includes Saint Mary's campus. He called for the college to walk back the change, saying it promoted an ideology at odds with Catholic teaching.
Saint Mary's viewed the new admissions policy as part of its mission to foster a loving and just community, Conboy and Smith said in their Dec. 21 letter.
"We believed it affirmed our identity as an inclusive, Catholic, women's college," their letter said. "It is increasingly clear, however, that the position we took is not shared by all members of our community."
The updated policy has been removed from Saint Mary's website.
Rhoades thanked Saint Mary's administration and board for "listening to the voices of the many students and alumnae" in a Dec. 22 statement. He called "fidelity to the Christian message" an "essential characteristic" for a Catholic college.
The college also announced a series of listening sessions with the Saint Mary's community, beginning this month, to "explore what it means to embrace our values as a Catholic, women's college."
However, some Saint Mary's faculty have objected to the rollback.
The college's psychology department issued a statement disagreeing with the admission reversal, per an email shared by an alum on social media.
"As psychologists the research is clear," the faculty said, citing statements from the American Psychological Association and The Society for Research in Child Development supporting the inclusion of transgender and gender-diverse students.
"We recognize how painful this decision is for many members of our community, " the psychology faculty said. "Please know that you are not alone."