Genderqueer? Trans man? UC schools seek to make applications more inclusive

07/02/2015 07:40

Starting next fall, students applying to any of the University of California’s 10 campuses will have the option of signaling their sexual orientation and any of a number of gender identities before they even arrive on campus.

The option, part of a host of other accommodations in an effort to make the campuses as inclusive as possible, comes at a time of rapid change for gender identity politics, with high-profile symbols such as Caitlyn Jenner driving the conversation forward, elating some and distressing others.

While many colleges offer numerous opportunities for self-exploration on campus, it’s still unusual for a university to ask the question before students even arrive.
“I think it introduces the kind of welcoming environment we want to have just by including the question on the first thing students will see, which is the application they’re filling out. We think it’s very important,” said Pamela Brown, vice president for institutional research and academic planning, who serves on the system-wide advisory council on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender issues.

So students who hope to attend one of the undergraduate programs can opt to answer this:

How do you describe yourself? (Mark one answer)

·  Male

·  Female

·  Trans Male/Trans Man

·  Trans Female/Trans Woman

·   Genderqueer/Gender Non-Conforming

·  Different Identity

and,

Do you consider yourself to be (mark one answer) :

·  Heterosexual or straight

·  Gay or lesbian

·  Bisexual

·  Not listed above (please specify) __________

and,

What sex were you assigned at birth, such as on an original birth certificate? (Mark one answer)

·  Male

·  Female

Brown said other universities have already reached out to learn more about the questions they are asking. “It’s exactly the kind of leadership role we want to be taking,” she said. “We’re hoping we’ll be setting the standard and other universities will be using these same kinds of questions in their applications.”

They hope to extend such questions to applications for graduate study and for employment in the future. The information will also help them track such students, measure things such as graduation rates and determine whether enough support is available.

Gender and sexual orientation issues will be emphasized in the academic side of life at UC, as well, with a two-year project promoting interdisciplinary study of such topics, identifying ways to “advance student learning about LGBT issues,” according to a press release, and ending with a symposium synthesizing research from students and professors systemwide.

And it will change the physical structure of campuses, as well, as UC adds gender-neutral bathrooms and require new construction to include them.

“UC is working hard to ensure our campuses model inclusiveness and understanding,” President Janet Napolitano said in a statement; she has pushed for these changes, creating the task force last summer. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far, but it doesn’t stop there — we must continue to look at where we can improve so everyone at UC feels respected and supported.”

The application questions, university officials note, don’t affect an applicant’s chances for admission. WashingtonPost

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