In keeping with a law recently passed by the state legislature, the University of California may begin asking students to indicate their sexual orientation upon admission to a UC campus.
The law in question, AB 620, requests that the UC, CSU, and California Community Colleges include “sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression” on forms used to collect demographic data.
“Students should have the right to identify themselves as LGBT,” wrote Bill Jacob, Chair of the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), in a letter recommending that students be allowed to identify their sexual orientation on the Statement of Intent to Register and “other forms required of admitted and enrolled students.”
Collectingdemographic data on sexual orientation is part of a larger effort to improve campus climate for LGBT students, staff, and faculty in post-secondary institutions. Currently, there is no final decision as to how and when the UC will implement this change.
“I think that it would be important to have that data so that we, in the interest of diversity and serving the needs of the community, [are] able to understand who is on campus and what their needs are,” says Noel Gomez, a self-identified LGBT student.
To protect students’ privacy, both BOARS and the University Committee on Affirmative Action and Diversity recommended that students be allowed to voluntarily indicate their sexual orientation on the SIR rather than the UC application, noting that parents might be “reading the application over their shoulder.”
“It’s a sensible approach,” comments student Michael Lane. “It allows you to allocate money [for LGBT resources] based on how many people are there who actually need it rather than just throwing a predetermined amount.”
In late January, the UC Academic Senate endorsed the recommendation to collect sexual orientation data on the SIR. However, concerns as to how to collect this information in a meaningful manner while at the same time alleviating student fears about confidentiality still remain.
“If it would somehow help the LGBT community be less ostracized and be more accepted in the public education system [then] it would be good,” says student Aleksandra Filipovich. “But I could see how it could work against the students too…you know, the whole ‘outing’ [issue].”
While indicating sexual orientation on the SIR rather than the UC application is more prudent with regard to privacy issues, some question the viability of this option since some LGBT students will worry about outing themselves.
“I don’t think that [the SIR] should be the sole means of collecting that data,” says Coordinator for Peer Mentoring and Student Transitions, Jason R. Juarez. “I could see lots of high school students, even transfer students, who would balk at that [question]. It’s going to go on state records.”
Student Stephanie Toledo thinks that the use of the SIR to collect this information “wouldn’t make a difference,” and that LGBT students are not likely to out themselves.
“Especially seniors in high school,” she adds. “They’re not comfortable yet.”
In addition to a request to collect demographic data on sexual orientation, AB 620 also requires that campuses post that information on their respective websites, as well as requesting that each campus designate an employee as “a point of contact” for LGBT individuals. UC officials say that the SIR for the incoming Class of 2016 will not likely include an option for students to disclose their sexual orientation.