LGBT Question May Be Added to Admissions Application

The College is considering adding language to its application for admission that would allow prospective students to self-identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 told The Crimson.

“We want to send a positive signal to students who are grappling with the issue of [sexual orientation] or gender identity,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this campus is really welcoming to all students and that’s the signal we want to send.”

Fitzsimmons said identification as LGBT would not act as a positive “tip” in the application process, unlike other factors like place of residence and legacy status which can help land an applicant in the group of accepted students.

Fitzsimmons said the admissions office is still working on the wording of the potential question and intends to meet with student groups in coming months to solicit feedback.

Among the possibilities under consideration is an optional essay, which could enable students to share stories and experiences that they may not have included otherwise, Fitzsimmons said. The office already added an option for applicants to the Class of 2015 to express interest in participating in LGBT student groups in the extracurricular area of the supplement.

“We endlessly stress about the wording, especially on the optional areas,” Fitzsimmons said.

A final decision on the inclusion of the question will be made by February.

Harvard Queer Students and Allies Co-Chair Emma Q. Wang ’12 described the potential change as “very refreshing and progressive.” 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, she said.

Harvard’s potential move is part of an ongoing discussion in higher education on the inclusion of such a question on college applications.

This fall, Elmhurst College, an Illinois liberal arts school, added a question that asked applicants whether they identified as LGBT.

The Common Application also considered adding questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity earlier this year, but eventually rejected the idea.

“Many admissions officers and secondary school counselors expressed concern regarding how this question might be perceived by students, even though it would be optional,” said a statement from the Common Application group. The group noted that it would likely revisit the issue sometime in the future.

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at jworland@college.harvard.edu.

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