By Advocate Contributors
Originally published on Advocate.com November 17 2011 3:20 AM ET
Harvard University announced Wednesday that it may add language to its admission application that would allow prospective students to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, according to The Harvard Crimson.
The admissions office is currently working on the wording of the potential question, and the staff intends to meet with student groups in the coming months to solicit feedback. "I think this campus is really welcoming to all students and that's the signal we want to send," dean of admissions and financial aid William R. Fitzsimmons told the Crimson.
A student identifying as LGBT would not function as a positive "tip" in the the application process. Fitzsimmons said the move is intended to be more of a welcoming signal to "students who are grappling with the issue of [sexual orientation] or gender identity." Students may also be asked to write an optional essay to express their personal stories and experiences.
Harvard Queer Students and Allies cochair Emma Wang welcomed the announcement. "It is very refreshing and progressive," Wang said. "Not only would the change give applicants a more welcoming image, but it would allow the college to keep better track of how many LGBT students apply and how many are accepted."
A final decision on the inclusion of the category won't be made until February, but the application currently allows students to express interest in participating in LGBT student groups as an extracurricular activity.
Harvard's potential decision is part of a larger discussion within higher education on the inclusion of such questions in admission applications. As reported in August, Elmhurst College, a small liberal arts school near Chicago, will become the first college or university to formally ask about sexual orientation in admission applications beginning next fall.