Saint Mary's College reverses decision to consider admission for students who identify as women

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - The Saint Mary’s College Board of Trustees voted to reverse its decision to consider admission for undergraduate students who identify as women, according to a letter from board president Maureen Karantz sent out Friday.

The decision comes a month after the board updated its Non-Discrimination Policy to consider admission for students “who consistently live and identify as women.”

The board said when they approved the update, they saw it as affirming the college’s identity as an inclusive, Catholic, women’s college but later learned the position was not shared by all in the community.

Starting in January, the board and college administration plan to introduce listening sessions to discuss what it means to embrace values as a Catholic women’s college.

Read the full letter below:

Dear Saint Mary’s College Community,

Earlier this week, the Saint Mary’s College Board of Trustees met to discuss the impact of our recent decision to update our non-discrimination policy. The Board reflected on the sense of division we have experienced in our campus community and among our extended alumnae family since this decision was communicated. This has weighed heavily on our minds and in our hearts. There have been many voices responding to us from many places and perspectives. We have listened closely, and we have heard each of you.

When the Board approved this update, we viewed it as a reflection of our College’s commitment to live our Catholic values as a loving and just community. We believed it affirmed our identity as an inclusive, Catholic, women’s college. It is increasingly clear, however, that the position we took is not shared by all members of our community. 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. Moreover, we clearly underestimated our community’s genuine desire to be engaged in the process of shaping a policy of such significance. As this last month unfolded, we lost people’s trust and unintentionally created division where we had hoped for unity. For this, we are deeply sorry.

Taking all these factors into consideration, the Board has decided that we will return to our previous admission policy.

Although this has been a challenging time for our community, we believe that the College should continually grapple with the complexity of living our Catholic values in a changing world. But we also believe the College needs to do so as a community. When we disagree, we must strive to preserve the fabric of our relationships. This, at its core, is what it means to be a part of a vibrant Catholic campus in this moment. Whatever our differences, each of us has chosen Saint Mary’s. Our only future is a shared future where we accompany one another—and where we engage across differences with less certitude and more humility. This is the future we are working toward.

And this future is profoundly informed by our journey toward equity, inclusion, and justice. The Board and Administration are firmly committed to ensuring a welcoming and safe environment for all. To this end, beginning in January, we will introduce a series of listening sessions—both on campus and online for our extended family—to explore what it means to embrace our values as a Catholic, women’s college. We will continue to work toward understanding how a college like ours can become a true home, a place of open doors and open arms, where everyone, with all their differences intact, belongs.

We recognize that the experience of the last several weeks has been not only trying but also personally painful—for many reasons—for students, faculty, staff, and alumnae. Our deepest hope is for everyone to return in January committed to rebuilding trust and to building a campus that accepts healthy disagreement as part of the value of an academic community. For all colleges and universities, this is a defining challenge of our time.

In closing, in this season of the solstice—of darkness and of longing for the Light of the World—we might remember the persistence of the Magi. They set out, uncertain about their destination or the meaning of their journey. They followed a star to Bethlehem and discovered their purpose. And when they went home, they were changed. They understood that they could not simply return by an old road. They had to find a new way forward, a way that would transform the meaning of their return.

As we anticipate our own return, let us also continue to move forward—together—on our journey to be a community that is Gospel inspired, common good oriented, and dignity affirmative.

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