More colleges and universities want to start collecting demographic data on students’ sexual orientation exactly the same way they have been collecting students’ gender and ethnicity information for many years. Although individual colleges like Elmhurst College in Illinois and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge now utilize such data collection policies during the last few years, this fall will be the first time that an entire public system will do so. 500,000 students signed up for the Washington State Community and Technical College System will be asked to voluntarily identify their sexual orientation and gender identity when they fill out their registration forms.
As Lauren Ingeno of Inside Higher Ed explains, the person who is part of a group to initially propose that Washington State community colleges start collecting this information C current University of Washington student Matthew Shrader C hopes that it will accelerate the trend of other university systems across the nation adopting similar policies. Shrader was certainly one of five students to pitch the program to the schools this year when he would be a student at South Puget Sound Community College.
The benefit of adding questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity is twofold, Mr Shrader said. First, it enables colleges to collect data about LGBTQ students and track their academic success, enrollment and retention rates. This in turn can help college administrators better understand what support services, resources and activities they are able to provide for everyone students within the LGBTQ community. The reason behind asking, some educators say, is similar to the reasons colleges have for a long time asked about race, ethnicity and gender – to track successes and failures at recruiting and graduating different categories of students.
According to Ingeno, collecting demographic data on LGBQT students could prod schools into taking the needs of the non-heteronormative students more seriously. People who support the data collection believe that without it, meeting those needs will be a lower priority for universites and colleges because the presence of LGBQT students on campus isn’t as visible as those of different racial or ethnic backgrounds.
Jorge Valencia, who leads the purpose Foundation, an organization that offers scholarships to LGBQT youth, thinks that schools have overlooked this specific community towards the detriment from the entire campus.
The executive director of Campus Pride, Shane Windmeyer, also praised the Washington vocational schools. \”Right now colleges do not know the academic retention and success of LGBT student populations? – who encounter high rates of harassment [and] bias in addition to encounter many high at-risk health concerns.? Every college has got the responsibility to deal with these issues and the time has become,\” said a statement from Mr Windmeyer on the Campus Pride website.