University of Iowa Adds LGBT Identity Question to Admissions Form

The University of Iowa wants to better connect its LGBT students with the university's resources and support networks. And what better way to do so than to ask those students to identify themselves and involve them in the process of fostering an environment in which all are welcomed. 

On Wednesday,  The University of Iowa, in partnership with Campus Pride, announced that it would begin asking LGBT students to identify themselves on their college applications. The goal? As University of Iowa Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President Georgina Dodge says, inviting students to provide this information will help with both student success and retention.

"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 Dodge, in the CampusPride announcement.  "Asking LGBTQ students to identify themselves demonstrates that we value this aspect of identity just as we value the other categories for which students check boxes."

The University's new college admission application asks an optional question—“Do you identify with the LGBTQ Community?” — and offers “Transgender” as an additional gender option. The questions will be used to determine incoming students’ needs, track retention rates, potential interest in campus programs, and to offer support resources. The optional identity question appears in a section of other optional questions asking students about family connections to the university, parents' educational background, interest in ROTC programs, and interest in fraternities and sororities.

“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,” said Shane Windmeyer, Campus Pride executive director. “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.”

GLAAD's President Herndon Graddick also applauded the University of Iowa's decision and urged more schools to ensure that its LGBT students feel welcomed and protected. "The historic move by The University of Iowa to include these optional questions allows students to safely identify as LGBT and provides the university with valuable information to ensure that all  students feel supported and safe. Campus Pride’s dedication to the equal and fair treatment of LGBT students on college campuses across the country is vital to ensuring that every student can learn without fear of harassment or bullying."   

In January 2011, the Common Application, which represents nearly 400 colleges and universities, rejected a proposal supported by Campus Pride and others to add similar identity questions to their standardized national admissions application citing cultural norms and that very few colleges have sought the information. The organization the same year added a question around religious affiliation for public and private campuses.

“Campus Pride knows from our national research that a quarter of LGB students encounter harassment on campus and this percentage is even greater for transgender students. We also know that LGB youth are at higher risk with certain negative health factors. There is no reason today why colleges and universities should not be held accountable for the campus climate as well as want to ensure the academic success and retention of LGBT students,” said Windmeyer. “ We track retention for other student populations. Now is the time to do so for LGBT students.”

The University of Iowa, a public institution of higher education founded in 1847, is now the first public institution and the second U.S. college or university to add LGBT-specific demographic questions to its college admission form. The school follows Elmhurst College, a private four-year liberal arts college, which made history in August 2011 as the first U.S. institution of higher education to ask such demographic questions on their admission form. Elmhurst’s and Iowa’s decisions reflect a conscious choice by administrators at the schools to actively exercise responsibility for retention and academic success of LGBT students.

 In addition, Campus Pride’s LGBT-Friendly National College Fair Program gives schools the opportunity to actively reach out and recruit talented and driven students from across the country. The Fair’s tour stops in cities like Charlotte, NC, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas and New York.  The next fair date is Friday, Jan 11, 2013 in New York City.