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UPDATED 08/25/11 1:01 p.m.
ELMHURST, Ill. (CBS) Elmhurst College has become the first in the nation to ask prospective students about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The college confirmed Thursday that it has added the question, “Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community?” to its admission form for students entering in the fall of 2012. The question is one among several others, including queries about religion and language spoken at home.
The school points out that no one is required to answer the questions.
Elmhurst College says one of its goals is to increase diversity on campus.
“We took this step in an effort to better serve each of our students as a unique person,” Elmhurst President S. Alan Ray said in a news release. “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.”
Those who answer “yes” to the question might be eligible for a scholarship worth a third of tuition, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, pointing out that about 60 percent of incoming students get some kind of scholarship aid as it is.
The college also hopes knowing whether students are gay or lesbian will help direct them toward groups and services to ease their transition into life in college, the Sun-Times reported.
The national organization Campus Pride said in asking students about their sexual orientation in order to be supportive from the beginning, Elmhurst College should be congratulated for “setting the bar,” the release from the college said.
But on the Boystown Facebook page Thursday, reaction to the move was mixed.
One reader wrote that the United Church of Christ, with which the college is affiliated, already has a “very proactive and progressive record on LGBTQ issues,” and “I’m glad that my alma mater is moving in the right direction.”
But another complained, “When will we have no classification… we are all free and equal, right?”
Elmhurst College offers a concentration in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and transgender studies. The college is also preparing to host its first annual LGBT Guestship, with lectures and discussions focusing on Christian theology and the LGBT person.
The Guestship series honors the Rev. William R. Johnson, a 1968 alumnus of Elmhurst College who in 1972 became the first openly gay person in modern history to be ordained into the mainstream Christian ministry.