"Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke," reads a new voluntary question added to the prestigious university's admissions application, reports GLAAD.
The question asks aspiring attendees to share, if they wish, "a perspective you bring or experiences you've had to help us understand you better -- perhaps related to a community you belong to, your sexual orientation or gender identity, or your family or cultural background."
Duke's small change to the regular application could have big consequences for the LGBT student population. Advocates for such questions have argued that tracking queer and transgender students is critical to their success, notes Inside Higher Ed.
This is the reasoning behind including other minority identifications, such as race and ethnicity, on application forms. Such questions may also make LGBT students feel more welcome to apply or be open about their identity while on campus.
When encountering the new Duke question, an applicatnt is able to fill in several sentences in a blank box provided. This format is more open-ended than that used by the handful of other schools who have included application questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Elmhurst College, the University of Iowa, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology each offer students optional boxes to check instead.
While Christoph Guttentag, Duke's dean of undergraduate admissions, says he chose the question's open-ended format because "in general, I prefer to think of diversity within the context of values, interests, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, rather than discrete attributes," not everyone is pleased with its potential vagueness.
Daniel Kort, president of Blue Devils United, Duke's LGBT student group, told theHuffington Post that he would have preferred a checkbox, similar to other universities, to more concretely pinpoint LGBT students' identities.
Still, Kort says, the inclusion of the question is "a significant step in the right direction.
"Given that Duke's approach to the issue is novel," he concludes, "I look forward to hearing back from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions if the question effectively serves the needs of LGBTQ applicants."