• The University Of California Wants To Know If You’re Gay

    In an effort to ensure an “inclusive environment” on all its campuses, the University of California (UC) is adding new questions to its application process that asks applicants about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

    “Beginning this fall, the University of California will provide students with the option to voluntarily self-identify their sexual orientation and gender identity on the undergraduate admission application to help the university better understand and meet the diverse needs of its students,” the school said in a recent announcement. “The data will be used to help guide decisions such as allocating resources and developing programs as part of the university’s ongoing commitment to ensure campuses are welcoming and inclusive for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, faculty, and staff.”

    The school also announced that, henceforth, all new buildings constructed on UC campuses will include gender-neutral restrooms and changing rooms, to go along with a current policy that pledges to add gender-neutral bathrooms to existing structures.

    Nor does the school plan to stop at lifestyle issues, as the announcement also declares UC’s intent to increase the amount of LGBT-related academic work going on at the school.

    “The university is initiating a two-year project designed to coordinate and promote interdisciplinary study of genders and sexualities across the UC system,” the announcement says. “The project will include convening UC stakeholders to identify ways to advance student learning about LGBT issues, and conclude with a systemwide symposium that will showcase research from students and faculty in the field of genders and sexualities.”

    The reference to “interdisciplinary” work means that the UC system will be trying to boost the presence of LGBT-focused work in its regular departments (such as history) rather than having it relegated to fields like women and gender studies.

    Questions about sexual orientation are still relatively rare on college applications, and the UC system is easily the largest center of higher education that has decided to broach the topic. Last year, Duke University added an optional essay inviting students to talk about a “perspective” they could bring to the university, explicitly mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity as options. MIT is another one of the handful of schools that mention the matter. (RELATED: Duke Would Like To Know If You’re Gay)

    In the past, some LGBT activists have worried that questions about sexual orientation may be overly intrusive for the teenagers filling out applications, but more recently opinions have changed to be welcoming towards such questions. The group Campus Pride, for instance, says such questions will make it easier for schools to tell whether LGBT students are succeeding to the same degree as their straight counterparts.

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