Bullying remains an unfortunate problem among all age groups, but the current generation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) college students is feeling accepted more than ever before. It’s become relatively common for colleges and universities to provide a variety of on-campus resources for LGBT students, and one college is going as far as asking prospective students to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity on its 2012-13 application.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Elmhurst College, a small, private liberal arts college located in Elmhurst, Illinois that is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, is the first institution of higher education to include a question about sexual orientation and gender identity on its application.
The question appears in an optional section of the college application that includes other voluntary questions regarding religion and languages spoken. The LGBT question can be answered with “Yes,” “No,” or “Prefer Not to Answer,” but students can also choose to skip the question and not answer it at all.
Gary Rold, the dean of admission at Elmhurst, said that the LGBT question was added as part of the college’s commitment to “looking at diversity in all of its forms.” Inside Higher Ed explains that students admitted to Elmhurst who indicated they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered on their application will be eligible for a “diversity scholarship” worth one-third of their tuition.
Earlier this year, the board of the Common Application—which is accepted by over 400 colleges and universities in the United States—proposed adding questions about sexual orientation but ultimately rejected the idea.
“Many admission officers and secondary school counselors expressed concern regarding how this question might be perceived by students, even though it would be optional. One common worry was that any potential benefits to adding the question would be outweighed by the anxiety and uncertainty students may experience when deciding if and how they should answer it,” was the reasoning behind the decision, according to Insider Higher Ed.
Christine Grenier, Elmhurst College’s associate director of admissions, said that “Being able to reach out to LGBT students intentionally will allow us to connect to students earlier, help ease the transition to college and provide valuable resources on campus,” reports Think Progress.
Campus Pride, a non-profit organization for student leaders and campus groups whose mission is to create a safer environment for LGBT students, reports that a growing number of American colleges and universities are taking steps to make their campuses safer to LGBT students.
The organization’s LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index, which measures LGBT-friendly policies, programs and practices at nearly 300 colleges and universities, contained nearly double the number of schools with the highest possible rating for gay-friendliness compared to last year.
Shane L. Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, had nothing but praise for Elmhust College’s decision to include the sexual orientation question on its application. “The admissions form is one of the very first messages from a college about what’s important,” he says. “By standardizing this question, we can match students up with resources and start to communicate with them. We’ve got students going to prom who are openly gay. Those youth want to be out,” he told The Chronicle.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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