Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Don’t ask college applicants about sexual orientation or gender identity

Sasha Kobliha, a junior majoring in anthropology, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Imagine walking into your first class of freshman year. In a bold gesture, you pretend you aren’t terrified. Instead, you smile and introduce yourself to your professor before class begins.

The professor starts by asking where you’re from. Your hometown is somewhere small and not well-known, you explain. He asks what activities you did in high school. A little of this a little of that, you say. He asks about your SAT scores. You only took the ACT, but your results were well in the top tier, you assure him. Then the professor asks about your sexual orientation and gender identity.

Freeze: Which one of these is not like the others? If your gut reaction is that the last question infringes on a student’s privacy with no educational purpose or justification, you aren’t alone.

Outside of this hypothetical situation, some universities have started asking students about their sexual orientation and gender identity. This select but growing group of colleges – most recently the entire University of California System – are adding the option to their undergraduate application for prospective students to voluntarily self identify their gender identity and sexual orientation.

The conversation has also come up closer to home. GW considered adding the question for law school applicants, and a gender neutral option on all University forms was proposed in the Student Association last year.

Expanding resources for LGBT students is a step in the right direction toward a more inclusive environment on campus, but there’s no need for a census-like process of identifying those students. Resources for LGBT students should be available and abundant without exact numbers, so students shouldn’t be singled out or made to feel like a statistic that a university can boast.

The UC System has defended their decision as an effort to “understand and meet the diverse needs of its students.” But it’s possible to accommodate students without numbers: the SA for example, has pushed for increased transgender rights in recent years.

The debate to universally include the question on college applications has been contested since 2011, when the board of the Common Application overturned a proposal to introduce a sexual orientation question to their forms. This verdict – affecting the 488 colleges who use the Common Application, including GW – was the result of many institutions finding the question inappropriate.

Schools shouldn’t be delving into the sensitive subjects of sexual orientation or gender identity at all, let alone prompting students to provide such personal information. Looking at the pool of applicants, these are mostly 17 to 18 year-old students asked to divulge private information they may later regret sharing.

The pressure to respond to the voluntary question could also cause anxiety – especially for those who aren’t yet comfortable with their gender or sexual orientation. Closeted students, for example, might be wary of identifying themselves, and those who aren’t sure of their identities yet could feel uneasy.

But gender and sexual orientation are both fluid. The way a student identifies as a prospective student could fluctuate throughout their college years. This type of diversity happens organically, and isn’t something that schools should try to manufacture.

Instead of worrying about statistics, schools should focus on the real problems facing the LGBT students already on campus, and make sure resources are always available.

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