LGBT Ivy Leaguers, take note: Harvard University officials are considering the addition of language that will allow prospective students to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender on their admission applications.
Although William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, assured The Harvard Crimson that LGBT identification would not act as a positive "tip" in the application process (unlike other factors like place of residence), the wording is part of the university's effort to make it more welcoming.
"We want to send a positive signal to students who are grappling with the issue of [sexual orientation] or gender identity,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this campus is really welcoming to all students and that’s the signal we want to send."
Fitzsimmons noted that the potential question's wording is still being worked on, and admissions officials are hoping to solicit feedback from student groups over the next few months. Among the possibilities, he said, is an optional essay enabling students to share stories and experiences they might not have included otherwise. "We endlessly stress about the wording, especially on the optional areas," he added.
It's not the first time the Ivy League institution has led the pack in terms of LGBT matters. In 2009, the university received a $1.5 million gift from the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus (HGLC) to endow the F. O. Matthiessen Visiting Professorship of Gender and Sexuality, which represented the first endowed named chair in LGBT studies in the country.
As The Advocate reports, Harvard's potential decision follows the lead of Elmhurst College, a small liberal arts school near Chicago, which will become the first college or university to formally ask about sexual orientation in admission applications beginning next fall. Elmhurst's question, which appears on the college’s 2012-13 application, asks: “Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community?” An applicant may choose “yes,” “no,” or “prefer not to answer,” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.