The Next ‘Hip’ Question in Admissions?

This week I reported that the University of Iowa had become just the second institution to ask applicants about their sexual orientation. That’s true—as far as I can tell—if we’re talking only about undergraduate admissions. But what about graduate schools?

A friendly e-mail informed me that the Adler School of Professional Psychology, which has campuses in Chicago and Vancouver, British Columbia, added an optional question to its application last fall: “Would you consider yourself a member of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer) community?”

On Thursday I spoke with Adler’s president, Raymond E. Crossman, who helped found LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education, an advocacy group that supports LGBTQ leaders and causes. Mr. Crossman, who is gay, described the new question as a way of affirming Adler’s social-justice mission, which includes training practitioners to work with LGBTQ communities.

Since the question was added last year, most applicants have answered it. Eleven percent of the entering class on the Chicago campus identified as LGBTQ, according to Mr. Crossman. That information has practical value, he said: “It helps us think about scale, how much we are really serving them. Faculty want to know. It helps us with designing the educational experience.”

Mr. Crossman praised Elmhurst College and Iowa for adding similar questions. “They’re really sticking their necks out,” he said.

Yet words on an application can’t magically create a supportive environment. Admissions officers, Mr. Crossman said, should be sure they understand the climate for LGBTQ students on their campus before asking applicants about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“There’s got to be some truth in advertising,” he said. “You can’t say you’re welcoming and then have a campus that’s not welcoming … I can imagine some institutions’ doing this because it’s hip.”

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