"Are you gay?" Elmhurst College asks the sexual orientation of freshman and transfer students hoping to attend the school beginning fall 2012. The school becomes the first to ask the sexual orientation of potential students.
Elmhurst College in Illinois, a liberal arts university, says that answering the sexual orientation question will be completely voluntary, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Students have the option of checking "yes," "no," or "prefer not." Those who answer "yes" may be eligible for a special scholarship.
Intentionally or not, the State of Illinois is becoming a trailblazer in the gay rights arena. In June, the state made it legal for same-sex couples to join in a civil union and acquire many of the same benefits that heterosexual couples receive. Additionally, the state has been active in defending gay and lesbian couples from discrimination whether at work or in public places.
At Elmhurst College, school officials are asking students the personal question in an effort to direct incoming students to services and groups that may help them to transition to college life, reports the Sun-Times. The college considers a student's sexual orientation no different than any other identifying feature currently asked of applicants including sex, race, disability, and religion.
However, Elmhurst College in Illinois is not without its critics. Some may think that asking teenage students still in high school to identify their sexual orientation may be a bit premature. Additionally, there is always the fear that identification of sexual orientation may somehow be used against the students -- whether through official school action or from bullying by fellow students.
Elmhurst College asks sexual orientation of applicants. This may seem pioneering now, but in a short time, we may see most colleges ask a similar question.