In 2010, when Campus Pride urged the joint app to add optional questions on gender identity and sexual orientation, the idea was new. No college at that time included such questions, and in early 2011, the joint demand rejected the proposal.
But in August 2011, Elmhurst College became the first college to add such questions and more followed. Among them are institutions as large and important as Duke University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Iowa. With the addition of the question by the University of California system this year, a huge pool of applicants will be faced with the questions – optional as at all institutions that have adopted them.
When the Common Application rejected the idea in 2011, an organization statement said it could revisit the concept “later in the decade”, based, among other things, on “changing cultural norms. “.
On Friday, 25 organizations that advocate for gay, lesbian and transgender students, or that are civil rights organizations, sent a joint letter to Common Application saying it’s time for the organization to add the questions. The letter notes that many more students want to answer these questions and may not identify with the standard male / female distinction traditionally found on applications. With hundreds of colleges using the common app, the organizers of the letter consider it essential in their opinion that applicants should be given the opportunity to answer these questions.
The letter cites several reasons. “More and more LGBTQ students are living openly when they apply to college and want to be able to identify themselves – just as they do with their race, ethnicity and religion. Gender identity and sexual orientation would be optional, so that LGBTQ students who do not live openly or are uncomfortable disclosing do not have to, ”the letter said.
Further, the letter states that “a growing number of colleges and universities are seeking to track data regarding openly LGBTQ students who apply, are accepted, and enroll in their institutions. The lack of questions about LGBTQ identity on the common application makes it more difficult to obtain this data, which hinders their ability to manage their academic perseverance and success. ”
The letter says this follow-up is necessary because “LGBTQ youth, especially LGBQ youth of color and transgender youth of all races, experience multiple oppressions and are much more likely than other students to struggle academically and staff at the university In order to have a positive impact on their college experience, institutions must have the capacity to identify these students.
Signatories to the letter include Campus Pride and the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, which tried to change the common app five years ago, as well as many other groups. They include gay rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and the Point Foundation, as well as other groups, such as the Japanese American Citizens League and ACPA: College Student Educators International.
Common Application spokesperson Aba Blankson said she did not view the 2011 decision as a rejection of the idea, due to the view expressed at the time that attitudes could change. “As a member association, we take inspiration from the colleges and universities of our members – and this is a topic that we have discussed and continue to discuss,” she said via email. “As the national conversations progress, we will continue discussions to determine how our members’ colleges and universities would like gender and identity to be reflected in the shared portion of the Common App. I have no doubts that we will manage in the most progressive way possible. “
When the Common Application rejected the idea in 2011, organization leaders noted that students involved in gay rights activism could list this as one of the activities they participated in, although others were quick to follow suit. noted that many high school students who join groups to promote gay rights at their schools are righteous.
The 2011 statement also stated that “Many admissions officers and high school counselors have expressed concern about how this issue might be viewed by students, even though it would be optional. A common concern was that the potential benefits of adding the question would be outweighed by the anxiety and uncertainty that students may experience when deciding whether to answer it and how to answer it. “
Privately, some admissions deans at the time of the 2011 discussion also said the diversity of common application colleges complicates the issue. Among the members are many institutions that have large and active gay student groups, and where campus leaders speak out for gay rights. Other colleges of common application, however, are religious colleges affiliated with denominations that have a range of views (some not favorable) about homosexuals.