Currently in the midst of its first-ever application cycle where it has asked prospective students to identify their sexual orientation or gender identity if they felt comfortable doing so, Elmhurst College reports that the vast majority of students have answered the question without hesitation.
Inside Higher Education reports that since the new policy began last fall at the private liberal arts school located in the western suburbs of Chicago, thought to be the first American campus to ask a question of the kind, about 5 percent of applicants have identified themselves as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender).
Although some critics were concerned that the question would either make applicants feel uncomfortable or entice some straight students to pass themselves off as LGBT for a crack at the school's diversity "enrichment scholarship," worth one-third of Elmhurst's $29,994 tuition, the school's admissions dean Gary Rold said they have not run into these sorts of issues to date.
The new policy is intended to let prospective LGBT students know they are welcome at Elmhurst College. Rold said in August, when it was introduced, that the new question was part of the school's commitment to "looking at diversity in all of its forms." If students choose not to answer the question, they have the option of skipping it altogether.
"We took this step in an effort to better serve each of our students as a unique person," Elmhurst President S. Alan Ray explained in a statement. "It also allows us to live out our commitments to cultural diversity, social justice, mutual respect among all persons and the dignity of every individual."
According to the Chicago Tribune, of the 109 applicants who identified themselves as LGBT, 63 were accepted to the school. It is estimated that between 85 and 90 percent of prospective students responded to the question, which appears in a series of questions asking applicants about their religious affiliation, languages other than English spoken in their home and other factors.
Other schools are reportedly also considering adding their own comparable questions, most notably Harvard University. In November, the Harvard Crimson reported that the school was contemplating the question as a means to "send a positive signal to students who are grappling with the issue of [sexual orientation] or gender identity."
While The Common Application, a standard document used by over 450 colleges and universities, has also considered the question, the group's board of directors ultimately rejected the idea last year as some feared that it could cause anxiety for some students during their already stressful college application process.
Photo by Teemu008 via Flickr.
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