University of Iowa adopts LGBT-friendly admissions application

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University of Iowa-Iowa City administrators announced today that the school will including optional questions about students’ sexual orientation and gender identity in the college admission application.

The university, founded in 1847, is the first public institution and the second U.S. college or university to add LGBT-specific demographic questions to its admission form, according to Campus Pride, a student-driven LGBT activist group.

Elmhurst College, a private four-year liberal arts college, made history in August 2011 when it became the first U.S. institution of higher education to ask such demographic questions on their admission form.

Campus Pride, in a news release, said the decisions reflect a conscious choice by administrators at the schools to actively exercise responsibility for retention and academic success of LGBT students.

"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's 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."

The new application at the University of Iowa 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.

University of Iowa chief diversity officer Georgina Dodge said 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. "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."

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.