Asking THE Question: Elmhurst Leads the Nation

There are choices that we all make. I recently participated in an on line discussion about whether the American Council on Education should or should not include a question about sexual orientation (or whatever we call it these days) on their questionnaire sent to presidents. The consensus was: yes. Why? Because folks are proud. And, because folks know that others may follow.

Such questions matter.

So too do the questions we ask admitted students and those who apply. And, Elmhurst College, located in Chicagoland, was a leader when it comes to asking about sexual orientation and gender identity. They asked. They made history — as they proudly note on their website here. (In this, their affiliation with the United Church of Christ served and serves them well.) Here’s what Elmhurst has to say for itself:

“As the institution notes on the application itself, it asks these optional questions because it is “committed to diversity and connecting underrepresented students with valuable resources on campus.” When a student chooses to answer the optional questions, he or she helps the institution to advance its diversity goals and to connect prospective students with the resources, including scholarships and campus organizations, that the College makes available to students from underrepresented groups.

“We took this step in an effort to better serve each of our students as a unique person,” says Elmhurst President S. Alan Ray.  “It also allows us to live out our commitments to cultural diversity, social justice, mutual respect among all persons, and the dignity of every individual. These are among the core values of this institution. They provide the foundation for all of our academic, student and community programs.””

Of course, it would not matter as much if all they did was ask. This site indicates they do more. (I particularly like their stories focusing on the theme “it is getting better.”)

As they changed Elmhurst, these folks changed the world; indeed, not the question is how colleges should ask. And, as USA Today asks, whether the inclusion of such questions (in this case at Iowa, the second college to add the questions and the first public), enhances inclusion efforts.

What do you think?

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