We all know there’s an awful relationship between Christian schools and LGBT students. At some schools, the mere mention that you like someone of the same sex will cause the Christian Police to come after you (reparative therapy, anyone?)…
At some schools, like Harding University in Arkansas, anonymous gay students put out an ezine with their stories. Even at evangelical stronghold Wheaton College, there’s now a community of LGBTQ and ally students. Still, these students have to remain anonymous or risk facing almost-certain expulsion.
Now, Elmhurst College in the western suburbs of Chicago — a school affiliated with the liberal United Church of Christ — is heading in the right direction. They’re the first college in the country that is directly asking students about their sexual orientation on the application (PDF) — “Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community?” — and they’re using the optional data for good:
“Increasing diversity is part of our mission statement,” said Gary Rold, Elmhurst’s dean of admissions. “This is simply closing the loop, in many ways, of another group who has a very strong identity. It may not be race and religion but it’s an important part of who they are.”
Those who answer “yes” may be eligible for a scholarship worth up to one-third of tuition, not unusual because about 60 percent of incoming students receive some type of scholarship aid, Rold said. More importantly, he said, knowing students’ sexual orientation will help officials direct incoming students toward services or groups that might help them make an easier transition to college life.
“We try really hard to take good care of students, have them graduate and be successful citizens in the world,” he said. “The only way you do that is to meet people where they really are.”
Some applicants still may not like seeing the question there and decide not to apply at all, but by embracing students’ sexuality, Elmhurst — which I’m happy to say has a strong Secular Student Alliance affiliate — will probably receive far more applicants as a result.