Oregon bill: Colleges should ask if students are gay

Robby Soave | Reporter

Universities in Oregon should ask incoming students to disclose their sexual orientation, a recently proposed bill in the state legislature suggests.

Democratic state Rep. Sara Gelser is sponsoring the legislation, which would instruct — though not require — public institutions of higher education in the state to collect information about the sexual orientation of their students.

“Each public university… community college or other institution of higher education that operates in this state shall allow all students, faculty or staff to identify the person’s sexual orientation on any forms used to collect demographic data that includes gender, race or ethnicity,” according to a summary of the bill.

The bill is the brainchild of Steven Leider, a graduate student who researches LGBT issues at Oregon State University. Lack of data on the number of gay students at college campuses has hindered his research, he said.

“This dearth of demographic data severely hinders any kind of empirical research from being conducted about this largely invisible student population,” said Leider, in a statement to the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee, according to the Statesman Journal.

The decision to track LGBT students isn’t such an easy one, however.

Sexual orientation can’t be confirmed by administrators, prompting critics to worry that prospective students may lie about their  orientation on admissions forms, especially if they believe that identifying as a sexual minority will confer an admissions advantage through affirmative action.

Tammy Johnson, an admissions director at Marshall University, wrote a column for The Chronicle of Higher Education arguing that administrators and legislators must first make a more compelling argument for why students’ orientations should be recorded.

“Otherwise, despite institutions’ best intentions, for future generations of prospective students for whom LGBT status will carry less and less stigma, the answer to ‘are you gay?’ on a college admission application is very likely to be ‘it’s none of your business,’” she wrote.

Gelser did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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