The University of Iowa is now the first public university in the US to include a question about a prospective student’s sexual orientation on their application for admission.
As of this December 1, students applying to the university can answer the question “Do you identify with the LGBTQ community?” The application also includes a “transgender” option instead of he standard “male” or “female” on the gender question of the application, reports NY Daily News.
Elmhurst College, a private institution in Chicago, was the first college to include questions about sexuality on their application in late August, reports NBC News. Though the University of Iowa is the second college to include such a question overall, it is the first public institution to do so.
So why do they want to know if their applicants are gay or not?
“LGBTQ students are important members of our campus community, and we want to provide them with an opportunity to identify themselves in order to be connected to resources and to build networking structures,” said the university’s chief diversity officer, Georgina Dodge. “What we’ve heard from students, especially LGBT students, is that they don’t find out about support services and organizations until they’ve been here for a year or two, unfortunately. This allows us to do some more personal outreach.”
The question’s inclusion was praised by gay rights advocates, as it reflects “a growing paradigm shift in higher education to actively recognize out LGBT youth populations and to exercise greater responsibility for LGBT student safety, retention and academic success,” according to a statement by LGBT advocacy group Campus Pride.
A further goal of the question’s inclusion is to send a message to all applicants that the University of Iowa is an “environment where all personal identities are celebrated,” and feel that “increased visibility is certainly one way to help eliminate stigma.”