August 3, 2015
In 2010, when Campus Pride urged the Common Application to add optional questions about gender identity and sexual orientation, the idea was novel. No colleges at that time included such questions, and early in 2011, the Common Application rejected the proposal.
But in August 2011, Elmhurst College became the first college to add such questions and others have followed. Among them are such large and prominent institutions as Duke University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Iowa. With the University of California system adding the question this year, a huge applicant pool will face the questions — optional as they are at all institutions that have adopted them.
When the Common Application rejected the idea in 2011, a statement from the organization said that it might review the concept “later this decade,” based, among other things, on “evolving cultural norms.”
On Friday, 25 organizations that are advocates for gay and lesbian and transgender students, or are civil rights organizations, sent a joint letter to the Common Application saying that it’s time for the organization to add the questions. The letter notes that many more students want to answer those questions and may not identify with the standard male/female distinction traditionally found on applications. With hundreds of colleges using the Common Application, organizers of the letter see it as key to their view that applicants should have the option of answering these questions.