Should Colleges Ask About Sexual Orientation?August 30, 2011 2 Comments
When students are filling out their admissions applications for college, I imagine one of their first thoughts is, “Will I get in?”
But while some students dread the letter that tells them whether they will be accepted or not, others may feel anxious over whether or not they’ll be accepted by their peers based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
In an effort to ease the fears of these students, Elmhurst College is now inviting applicants to disclose their sexual orientation. Prospective students can check off “yes,” “no,” or “prefer not to answer” when asked: “Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community?”
Elmhurst is the first college to muster the courage to ask such a personal question on their applications and they have been “praised by gay rights activists” for doing so. Expressing an openness towards sexual diversity is certainly a good thing, but is it really an appropriate question to ask on an application?
Gary Rold, the dean of admissions, believes that it will make LGBT students feel more comfortable about attending Elmhurst. Maybe. But it could also make them uncomfortable. Despite the “potential benefits,” the board members of the Common Application believe students will wrangle with the question and all of its implications, causing them stress and anxiety.
Although the college insists that the answer won’t affect whether the student will be granted admission, those that check “yes” will be eligible for enrichment scholarships, which are given to “underrepresented groups.” It’s a question that proves the college cares about diversity at all levels, but you have to wonder if it really has zero bearing on admissions.
Regardless of whether this question appears on college applications or not, it seems that students of various sexual orientations and gender identities should be welcomed with open arms to any college they choose to attend.
Having to ask the question in the first place shows us how far we still have to go to achieve acceptance and equality in schools.
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