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Sunday, November 27, 2011
Should Sexual Orientation and College Admissions Mix?
In a move that is generating lively discussion in the blogosphere and beyond, Harvard University announced this week that it was considering amending its application to include a space that would allow prospective students to identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual or Transgendered. Given the current socio-political climate of discussion on LGBT rights, such a move was bound to open the floodgates for vociferous responses.
The loudest opponents argue that, since sexual orientation has no bearing on college admission, a check-box is unnecessary. Others fear that, since the application review process is conducted by fallible human beings, knowledge of an applicant's sexual orientation may ultimately work for or against the applicant-an offense against impartiality that has no place in the college application process.
More than anything, the conversation is charged with the kind simmering ire that colors most discussions about affirmative action. That is, should college applicants be assessed according to anything other than wholly objective considerations? Is that even possible? Harvard's Dean of Admissions claims that the proposed addition has nothing to do with admissions criteria and everything to do with sending a message to LGBT students that they are both welcome and recognized.
If nothing else, Harvard's decision-implementation of which is still hedging around the highly sensitive discussion of phrasing-may encourage other universities to take similar measures. Such a chain reaction is sure to energize an already polarized conversation. Ironically (maybe?), such discourse is what higher education is really all about.
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