Elmhurst College First to Ask Incoming Students' Sexual Orientation
Elmhurst College is your typical Midwestern college. Affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the school has more than 100 student organizations on campus, including Greek organizations, honor societies, and religious organizations. However, Elmhurst College recently did something that makes it unique and different from every other college in the USA: it began asking incoming students about their sexual orientation.
The school started putting the optional question on its college application: “Would you consider yourself a member of the LGBT community?” The school is doing this in order to achieve its “diversity goals.”
“We took this step in an effort to better serve each of our students as a unique person,” said S. Alan Ray, the president of the school. “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. These are among the core values of this institution. They provide the foundation for all our academic, student and community programs.”
The school’s Dean of Admission, Gary Rold, also feels that this is a step in the right direction of making students feel more comfortable and accepted on the school’s campus.
“As every member of our campus community must know, Elmhurst College is dedicated not only to nondiscrimination but also to providing a welcoming, safe and supportive learning environment for every one of our students,” Rold said. “All of the information that we glean from our admission applications is used to provide a wide variety of opportunities, services and programming that is appropriate to each individual student.”
Another factor in the school’s inclusion of this question on their applications could be the presence of an organization on campus called Straights and Gays for Equality (SAGE). SAGE has helped sponsor campus events such as the Big Gay Gathering. The presence of this organization on campus and events like this one made it apparent to the school that this community was growing on their campus, spurring them to add the optional question to their admissions documents. However, since it is optional, students do not have to answer.
“As long as people have the option not to answer, we felt that we have covered the base of a student who’s not ready for that,” said Rold.
There are benefits for those who answer “yes” to the question: they will become eligible for the Enrichment Scholarship, which is awarded to 100 incoming students each year. This scholarship covers about a third of the student’s tuition costs.
How do the school’s officials feel about their new title as the first school in the nation to ask students about their sexual orientation? Quite well, to be frank.
“This is a source of pride for us,” said Ray. “It is entirely consistent with our mission and vision to prepare students to understand respect the diversity of the world’s cultures and peoples.”