Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=189825
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Prospective Elmhurst College students will be faced with a question about their LGBT status on the school's application.


Months after adding LGBT question to application, Elmhurst College confident in decision

by Blake Williams
Oct 05, 2011


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Background on the decision

Elmhurst College has been passively recruiting LGBT students for some time, said Gary Rold, the dean of admissions for the school.

With a new application question, prospective students can now identify themselves as a member of that community. The school decided to include the option to let those applying know that the campus is accepting of all lifestyles.

The college also hopes the question will give them sufficient data to answer questions about LGBT student trends, from where they choose to live to what majors they are most likely to select.

This data will better allow the school to serve its LGBT community, Rold said.


The college application process is filled with questions.

What school will you go to? What will you major in? How will you pay for it?

Students applying to Elmhurst College now have one more to answer.

“Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT community?”

In a decision made in April and announced in August, Elmhurst included this question on its admission application, the first school in the country to do so.

“It is the right decision for Elmhurst. We might have added an item like this years ago but did not feel like the campus climate was a sufficiently friendly, welcoming place,” said Gary Rold, dean of admissions at Elmhurst. “We now feel that we have come to a point where we can do that.”

 

With the bulk of applications being submitted between November and February, the private, 3,100-student school, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, will likely not have meaningful data on the question until the first of the year, Rold said.

In addition to acquiring data, Rold hopes the question will send a message to applicants.

“I was talking to a representative of a college out in Oregon, a very progressive campus with a large population of gay and lesbian students already enrolled,” he said. “Their stance on it is, ‘We don’t need to ask that question because we are already identified as a very progressive campus.’ We didn’t feel as though there were things about Elmhurst that would necessarily send those signals to students and we felt the application sends a lot of signals.”

The options of “yes,” “no” and “prefer not to answer” appear next to the inquiry on the application. Rold insisted that the answer would not be used for any sort of exclusionary practice.

“Can we assure that the item will not be misused in any way? Yes,” he said. “Is that the same as gay and lesbian students feeling 100 percent secure all the time? I don’t know.”

Despite the affirmation by the administration, there was a mixed response to the question’s inclusion.

“I think it was a good decision,” said Emily Pochinskas, president of Straights and Gays for Equality  at Elmhurst. “Overall the organization is highly in favor of this being added.”

Pochinskas, a third-year student studying exercise science, acknowledged that some students took issue with the question.

 “Their anger, their disagreements have been from lack of information,” she said. “Through some further conversations with people, I hopefully feel like I’ve shed some light as to why the college is doing this.”

Elmhurst, located west of Chicago, implemented the question to evaluate trends about the college’s LGBT community and better serve its members, Rold said.

No matter the reason, SAGE faculty advisor Elaine Page is not concerned with those who objected to the query.

“If they are that offended that we are asking, maybe they aren’t a good fit for Elmhurst College anyway,” she said.