The University of California is working on a proposal which would give new students the option of stating their sexual orientation on their Student Intent to Register forms.
The measure was initiated by the Academic Senate for UC and will be in the form of a voluntary questionnaire. According to Dianne Klein, media relations for the UC Office of the President, the proposal is still in working groups but will likely be in place for Fall 2013 admission and be administered by the Provost.
The proposal was approved by the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) in December 2011. The Academic Council approved it on Jan. 25.
The change comes as a result of Assembly Bill 620, signed into law by the governor on Oct. 8, 2011. The measure requested that UC provide the opportunity for students, staff and faculty to report their sexual orientation and gender identity on any forms used to collect demographic data.
The bill also has a section that would include UC faculty and staff in the data collection. Demographic data will be collected at the time of hire, but according to Anderson, it has not been decided if any of the current employees will have to fill out similar surveys.
In a letter written by BOARS Chair Bill Jacob to Bob Anderson, chair of the Academic Senate, Jacob stated the purpose of the proposal is to help track LGBT students’ representation on campuses and to inform campus climate assessments.
“We know graduation rates for other students, but we have no idea for LGBT students and this is a significant piece of information,” Anderson said. “There was concern expressed that during the application process students will work with parents on application, so it would put students in an awkward position.”
Jacob explained further that the UC’s main concern is the privacy of applicants, who in most cases will need their parents’ approval before submitting the application. He wrote that the question could be awkward for young people who are not yet out or who are questioning, especially with parents reading applications over their shoulders.
Elizabeth Krause, assistant director at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center at UC Davis, said giving people the opportunity to state their sexual and gender identities in situations where they are stating any other identities is affirming and inclusive to LGBTQQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Ally) people.
She also is in support of including surveys asking about sexual orientation on the admissions application.
“I support giving people as many opportunities to self-identify as possible,” Krause said. “This can send a powerful message on applications that campuses are inclusive and interested in having information about all aspects of applicants’ identities.”
“Not including the opportunity to state an LGBTQQIA identity rests on the underlying assumption that there is something shameful or secret about one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation. While it may be true that some applicants have not come out to their families, including the opportunity does not force these individuals to out themselves. Even for those who may not feel comfortable stating an LGBTQQIA identity, the inclusion of the question might set the tone for how welcome they feel on our campuses,” she said.
Krause said it will likely be incomplete data because she does not believe everyone will decide to self-identify as LGBTQQIA.
Anderson said that the UC will revisit the issue of whether to put the survey on the admissions application in a couple years.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.