Campus Pride Blog

Common Application reinforces invisibility of LGBT youth

thecommonapp.jpgCampus Pride is disappointed by the decision today, as reported by InsideHigherEd.com, by the Board of the Common Application to not allow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students the opportunity to self-identify on their college admission application.

The decision today shows how out of touch the Common Application, as an organization, is with LGBT young people and what they face on a day-to-day basis, primarily the impact harassment has had on students while in high school and its potential impact at a student’s college or university of choice. Campus Pride’s 2010 State of Higher Education report found that nearly a quarter of LGB staff, faculty, and students reported experiencing harassment that interfered with their ability to work or learn. An even greater percentage 39% of transgender students, faculty, and staff reported experiencing harassment as well.

Campus Pride along with other Common Application member institutions had petitioned the organization for nearly four years to make changes in regards to LGBT options on the application. The board’s vote to reject the proposal was announced today.

“To be honest, this decision is not surprising,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. “The Common Application had a difficult time understanding why LGBT youth would want to come out on the college admission form, though similar questions are asked about other demographic and identity information. Frankly, what we are talking about is having colleges take responsibility for out LGBT youth who are applying to their institutions. Colleges and universities have the responsibility and role to ensure a safe, welcoming place to live, learn and grow. Right now, colleges have no clue who they are admitting in terms of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

LGBT youth deserve to know that the institution of their choice will be inclusive and welcoming: “This issue is one of inclusion, safety and accountability,” said Windmeyer. “Why should an LGBT student have to experience harassment, bias or fear their first year in college because they were invisible when admitted to the college? Programs, support and services to help their first-year transition and academic success should not be left to chance. Providing students with the opportunity to answer optional questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity provides college and university staff with vital information they need to most effectively serve their entire student body.”

Windmeyer added, “From the moment Campus Pride initiated dialogue with the Common Application, I knew that there was a huge learning curve to overcome in regards to LGBT concerns. The fact that the Common Application allows students to identify their religious beliefs as an option but does not see the rationale for LGBT youth, I think says a lot as to how much work still needs to be done.”

Campus Pride has seen tremendous success and greater visibility of LGBT issues on college and university campuses across the nation since 2007. The increased use of our Campus Climate Index and the significant increase in participation in our annual LGBT-Friendly College Fair tours have shown us that LGBT young people have an outspoken desire to attend institutions of higher education where they will be included and where their safety will be ensured.

The board of Common Application should consult directly with LGBT students — those who will benefit most from the once-proposed and now-rejected changes to their application. Such direct interaction with students will better inform Common Application and allow them to come to a more suitable decision.

READ MORE: Be sure to read this great story by the New York Times Student Journalism Institute’s Sergio N. Candido for a better perspective on LGBT students, their desires for higher education and more: thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/gay-friendly/