E40 Asking Students About LGBT Identity: What We Have Learned


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Elmhurst College added an optional question to their 2012 application for admission asking if students are members of the LGBT community. Staff members from Elmhurst will discuss the origins of adding the question, outreach efforts to assist LGBT students in their transition to college, and their work with EQUAL (the College’s gay/straight organization). In addition, they will address the media attention to the question, the campus support and communication plan for LGBT students, and what they’ve learned from student reaction to the question.

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E40 Asking Students About LGBT Identity: What We Have Learned

  1. 1. Elmhurst College and the LGBT Application QuestionModerator: Stephanie Levenson, Director of Admission Presenters: Gary Rold, Dean of Admission Christine Grenier, Associate Director of Admission
  2. 2. Why Did We Ask?• The History of Our Enrichment Scholarship • “Not limited to race or ethnicity”• SAGE and EQUAL • Key Student Involvement• Data collection• Curiosity about our population
  3. 3. Where Did We Start?• How did we ask? • 3 Variations of the same question• Who did we ask? • The President of the College • The IACAC Admission Practices Committee • Our lawyers • Campus Pride-verifying if any one else is doing this…why recreate the wheel?• Who did we not ask? • Alumni • Board of Trustees
  4. 4. Why not include the rest of the LGBT alphabet?• Simply put, we felt that we had to start somewhere.• We omitted “Queer”, as we learned that “queer” means different things to different people.• We omitted Questioning because we are looking for affirmative answers to membership of the community.
  5. 5. Then….The Snowball Effect• After asking Shane Windmeyer of Campus Pride to see if anyone else was allowing students to self identify, Shane asked if he could write a press release about it.• Our response? ……Sure…um….ok…sounds good.
  6. 6. What Happened Next?• The media descended during Orientation• 11 Interviews in one day. To date? 21+• TV, Newspaper, Internet, Blogs, Telephone Calls, Emails, Letters
  7. 7. Feedback from the Public “I just read the news about your decision to ask applicants to your institution about their sexual orientation. I just sat at my desk and cried a little bit -- tears of joy.”“My years at the University of Virginia could have been so much more fulfilling if I had been there during a different time. A social revolution is happening before our eyes. Thank you for bringing down another barrier.”
  8. 8. “I will be extremely surprised if your „diverse‟ institution isn‟t 80-90% liberal bias and agenda. … I believe it is far more important to have a diverse staff teaching diverse views to our young people then to push a pro-gay agenda under the color of diversity.”
  9. 9. “Education has nothing whatsoever to do with the sexual attractionsof an individual. Specific notice for people because of their sexual choices is absurd. Is a LGBT student somehow more qualified, or more interesting, or more meritorious than another hard working student? Quire frankly, it‟s demeaning to a person who is actually successful due to merit? Shame on you for pandering to the LGBT fad of the day.”
  10. 10. Other Feedback• Trustees• Alumni• Other Institutions • Duke • Lafayette • Utah • California State System
  11. 11. Wait… what are the students saying?• A heads-up would have been appreciated • They‟re glad this wasn‟t a publicity stunt, but would have preferred to know before everyone else did• Scholarship clarification• Social support is here. When will academics catch up?• Where is a staff member whose job it is to relate directly with the LGBT population?• The student population is secretly divided about the presence of the question on our application.
  12. 12. More Importantly… What Have We Learned?• Contrary to popular fears, students are not applying in droves just for scholarship monies.• To no surprise, students identifying as LGBT are no different academically than other students.• chart
  13. 13. Things to Consider• As we have moved through the first cycle, we have also been presented with issues that have warranted important and timely discussions. • Coding and Particular Student Circumstances • Integrated Marketing & Visibility • Campus Support Systems
  14. 14. Conversations About Coding• Which screen should host the information? • Demographics, Special Interest?• Special security issues or concerns?
  15. 15. Particular Student Coding Issues• To Code or Not to Code • a student who is out to everyone except their parents?• How to Code • a student whose gender identity is male but who is biologically female, or a student who is pre-op transexual?
  16. 16. Other Case Based Student Issues• Homelessness due to coming out• Pre-op transexual students• Contacting prospective students who bounce around because of lack of parental support
  17. 17. Future Considerations• How do we serve the LGBT student? • Safety • Comfort • Housing during Campus Breaks
  18. 18. What Else Are We Doing?• Integrated Marketing • Connecting students to Approach with regards to EQUAL student group visibility in through phone and email. viewbooks, ads and letters to public. • SAFE training for all• Diversity programming in RAs, RLCs, OSLs the residence halls. • SAFE meetings to continue• LGBT Programming the discussion • Big Gay Gathering • William R. Johnson Lecture • Pride Week • Pride Parade • Guest Lecture: Dan Savage
  19. 19. • Testimonial videos • Students • Faculty • Staff • Alumni• It Gets Better video• On campus resources• External resources
  20. 20. Conclusion There is none! We are continuing to learn as we go. We are notexperts, but we are trying to serve our students in the best way we can. We will continue to be open to changing and altering policies and programming as we go along.
  21. 21. Question and Answer