Liberal arts college takes its name seriously
Elmhurst College, centered in metropolitan Chicago, has become the first college in the nation to directly ask students about their sexual orientation. How they answer specific questions increases their scholarship eligibility, and can pay up to one-third of tuition costs. The private, 4-year liberal arts school has 3,300 undergraduate students and is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. But Muslim and even Secular Students Associations flourish along with mainstream faiths at the church school.
“Intercultural Life, celebrating ethnic diversity” also gets a big boost.
“Increasing diversity is part of our mission statement,” said Gary Rold, Elmhurst’s dean of admissions. “This [asking about sexual orientation] is simply closing the loop, in many ways, of another group who has a very strong identity. It may not be race and religion but it’s an important part of who they are,” the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
More importantly, he said, knowing students’ sexual orientation will help officials direct incoming students toward services or groups that might help them make an easier transition to college life.
“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.”
“It is kind of a pleasant surprise that Elmhurst College in Illinois is the first campus to ask an identity question,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of the national nonprofit Campus Pride. “
“It’s important that these youth have a way to express their sexual identity, like their racial identity,” Windmeyer said. “Colleges ask those questions so they can give them the resources to get them to be successful.”
With the focus on sexual identity, celebrating cultural diversity, faith or lack of it, cross-cultural skills and relationships among different groups, fostering greater awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer (LGBTQ) issues, and joining groups such as Straights and Gays for Equality, we wonder when they find time to actually delve into academics.