CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A local non-profit organization is the leading proponent of successful efforts to include LGBT-identity questions on the University of Iowa’s admission application.
The Charlotte-based Campus Pride, a national organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create safer college environments for LGBT students, praised the decision of University of Iowa administrators to add the optional demographic questions to their application on Wednesday. A new question asks students, “Do you identify with the LGBTQ Community?” The application will also include “Transgender” as an additional gender option.
“The move by University of Iowa administrators to include these specific LGBT identity questions represent 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,” Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer said in a relae. “For the first time, a major, public and national research university has taken efforts to identify their LGBT students from the very first moment those students have official contact with them. This is definite progress in the right direction — and deserves praise.”
[Ed. Note — This writer briefly worked as a communications manager for Campus Pride during a hiatus from the newspaper in the spring.]
The University of Iowa becomes the nation’s first public college or university in the nation to add the LGBT demographic questions. In August 2011, Illinois’ Elmhurt College, a private four-year college, became the first-ever institution of higher education to add the questions.
But colleges and universities have long asked other demographic questions, including inquiries about students’ race, gender, religion and other interests. Windmeyer told qnotes that change has been slow as administrators and other interested parties sift through the issues posed by asking LGBT-identity questions.
“I think there has been a fear on both sides of asking the question — fear on behalf of older LGBT people who remember what it was like to be closeted and who weren’t ready to come out during their college years and fear on the other side with colleges,” Windmeyer said. “There is still a stigma related to LGBT issues and to talk about that with youth is an even bigger stigma.”
Windmeyer thinks those fears are beginning to subside.
“These societal issues are slowly starting to dissipate and trickle away,” he said. “More young people are coming out in middle school and high school. I think it is good to ask if we should allow them to come out in college so that we can take better care of their needs and offer better services.”
Yet, interest to make such changes in the South isn’t as strong. Windmeyer says he’s had conversations about adding LGBT-identity questions to southern college’s applications. They have yet to prove fruitful.
“So many of the campuses in the South are still trying to deal with basic issues such as gender-neutral restrooms or adding sexual orientation to their non-discrimination statements — some of the more base-level policies, programs and practices,” Windmeyer said. “These conversations have been there in the South, but they haven’t been conversations that are ready to lead to any kind of action.”
Despite the lack of southern progress, Windmeyer finds encouragement that the first two schools to adopt LGBT-inclusive changes for their admission process and applications are schools based in the Midwest.
“They aren’t in New York City or Los Angeles,” Windmeyer noted, referencing two cities traditionally thought to be more LGBT friendly.
Several North Carolina colleges made headlines recently as they considered their own LGBT-inclusive changes. In November, The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees approved a proposal to implement gender-neutral housing on its campus beginning in the 2013 fall semester. Following the news, reports surfaced that Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina-Asheville are considering similar proposals. The University of North Carolina-Charlotte is also discussing potential housing changes.