Sexual Orientation Inquiry May Become Part of University Enrollment Process

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Source: Michelle Garcia, “UCLA, Princeton Top Gay-Friendly Colleges,” www.advocate.com, Aug. 4, 2010

The University of California (UC) Academic Senate endorsed a recommendation to add questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to the Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) forms that are required for entering students.

When proposing this change in Dec. 2011, Bill Jacob, Chair of UC’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, said that the question should be asked on the SIR instead of on the admission application. He wrote, “The question could be awkward for young people who are not yet out or who are questioning, especially with parents reading the application over their shoulder.”

In 2012, Elmhurst College, a private school in Illinois, became the first university to include a sexual orientation question on its admission application by asking, “Would you consider yourself a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community?” Students who answer “yes” to the question become eligible for an “enrichment” scholarship that covers one-third of Elmhurst’s tuition.

In an open letter, S. Alan Ray, President of Elmhurst College, explained the addition of the question: “A self-identified LGBT student brings distinct perspectives and experiences to campus, which add significantly to our cultural diversity… Moreover, the best research in the field shows that undergraduates learn better when they engage a wide range of persons both like and unlike themselves.”

An editor at the Washington Monthly compared Elmhurst’s policy to affirmative action and pointed out that it was an “odd” decision because “Most gay people begin to discover and identify their sexual orientation after they get to college.”

Others critics have suggested that Elmhurst’s action may lead prospective students to lie about their sexual orientation in order to obtain admission or a scholarship. About 5% of applicants identified themselves as LGBT at Elmhurst this year. Experts estimate 3-10% of the population is gay, said Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of the national Campus Pride advocacy group, in an interview with Inside Higher Education.

Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Institute and former regent board member for the UC system objects to the practice of asking questions about sexual orientation and gender during the enrollment process. “I think it will lead to another protected class,” he says.

The final say on whether or how to proceed with obtaining sexual orientation information for incoming UC students resides with Lawrence Pitts, UC Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs. The timetable for his decision has not been publicly announced.

Sources:

Perry Chiaramonte, “University of California Mulls Asking Incoming Students Their Sexual Orientation,” www. foxnews.com, Mar. 12, 2012

Bill Jacob, “Allowing LGBT Applicants to Self-Identify on the UC Application,” www.universityofcalifornia.edu, Dec. 9, 2011

Daniel Luzer, “Gay Affirmative Action,” www.washingtonmonthly.com, Aug. 26, 2011

S. Alan Ray, “A Letter from the President,” www.public.elmhurst.edu, Sep. 23, 2011

Mitch Smith, “No Identity Crisis,” www.insidehighered.com, Jan. 16, 2012