Last week the University of Iowa added an optional question to its application for undergraduate admission: “Do you identify with the LGBTQ Community?” The university has also given applicants a third gender option, allowing prospective undergraduates and graduate students to identify themselves as “transgender” instead of “male” or “female.”
With those changes, Iowa becomes the first public university—and only the second college in the United States—to ask applicants about their sexual orientation and gender identity, a practice some gay-rights advocates predict will soon be common. For now, admissions officers on many campuses continue to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of such questions, which some teenagers might welcome, but others may not.
The application for admission is meant to tell colleges about students, but Iowa’s move affirms that it is also a way to transmit messages to applicants. Officials at Iowa believe the new questions will allow them to better serve gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students, as well as those who are questioning their sexual identity.
“We think this will cause them to look more closely at the university because we value that part of who they are,” said Michael Barron, assistant provost for enrollment management. “We want students to feel we are receptive to and sensitive to their lifestyle and their description of themselves.”
The question about identifying with the LGBTQ community appears in a section of other optional questions about family connections to the university, parents’ educational background, and applicants’ interest in ROTC programs and Greek organizations. The new question will play no role in admissions decisions, Mr. Barron said. Iowa plans to use it only to connect students with information. <Read more.>