Scholarship News

Graduate School to Ask Applicants’ Sexual Identity


October 29, 2014
by Suada Kolovic
The Graduate School at Northwestern University will join Elmhurst College, the University of Iowa, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a handful of law schools as it begins asking applicants about their sexual orientation.

The Graduate School at Northwestern University will join Elmhurst College, the University of Iowa, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a handful of law schools as it begins asking applicants about their sexual orientation.

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According to The Graduate School, this question has been added to its application to gain a clearer understanding of the school's community and to better serve all in the school. “It's important for us, but also for others to move in this direction, as well," said school dean Dwight McBride in a statement. "If we don't ask the question, we are not building a data archive and, therefore, have no way of knowing what the needs of our populations and subpopulations in our communities are – beyond guessing and anecdote." It's important to note that answering the question will be optional and will specifically ask whether applicants self-identify as a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community. (Northwestern University does not pose the question on its undergraduate application.) For now, school spokeswoman Josie Whetstone said LGBTQ groups on campus have greeted the news without criticism, most likely because it’s an optional inquiry. (For more of this story, click here.)

What are your thoughts on more universities asking students about their sexual identity? Do you think it's necessary or beneficial to the LGBTQ community? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Richard B  on  11/6/2014 10:19:42 PM commented:

While I think it should be and option to fill out in the schools student record, I don't think admission forms are the right place for it as it could be used to screen students of some specific orientation or other identification that some selecter might not want, or over selecting one they do want. However, we all know that far more students will fill our the Admission forms (and thus more will fill our the optional statement) than will fill out a student profile afterwards. Hard to tell where the policy should be set. Perhaps the status should not be visible until the student has been admitted, only kept for later record purposes, perhaps anonymized.

Annalise M  on  11/6/2014 3:38:32 PM commented:

Not only is this completely inappropriate but it offensive as well. The sexual orientation of students is personal and should not be considered as a factor in their wishes for professional growth and education. Many individuals have issues surrounding their sexuality and "coming out" to their families or friends; to question them about it may bring up these issues or trauma. These campuses should provide services for members of individuals from all sexualities, ethnic backgrounds, and cultures. They should not have to question possible future students on their sexuality in order to offer services to specific populations, those services should already be readily available. Asking students specifically if they identify as a member of the LGBTQ community is differential treatment, as there are no questions specifically singling out heterosexual students. I find this to be appalling. I suppose the era of minority groups moving to the back of the bus has not faded, but in reality is reoccurring in regards to sexualities being specifically targeted on college applications.

Adeola A  on  10/30/2014 1:25:57 PM commented:

At first it is hard for me to fathom why this is any of the university's business but I can understand why it is beneficial to the LGBTQ community because it seems that the schools are just trying to identify certain populations to meet their specific needs like a LGBTQ club on campus or other data that can help this population that has different needs. All in all I am not perturbed by it, I just hope it is for good use and not to exclude others on the application process.

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