Future UC students may be asked to declare sexual orientation

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Future University of California students may be asked to disclose their sexual orientation upon accepting an admissions offer to a UC campus.

Recent legislation and efforts to obtain this information were introduced with the goal of improving campus data and resources available for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. However, UC officials say this will not be implemented for the incoming class.

Both the CSU and the UC may request information about a student’s sexual orientation on the Statement of Intent to Register in order to protect students not comfortable with sharing their sexual orientation with parents or guardians.

The Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, a committee within the systemwide Academic Senate, recommended in January that the UC work to gather this data in an effort to comply with AB 620 — state legislation passed in October 2011 that requires the California Community Colleges and California State University to collect demographic data on sexual orientation and requests the same of the UC.

Although the UC collects data on ethnic groups, socioeconomic status and other demographic categories to track issues such as retention efforts and graduation rates, Academic Senate Chair Robert Anderson said there is currently no method in place to measure how LGBT-identified students fare on UC campuses.

“We collect data on other groups, and it’s time that we treat LGBT people the same way,” he said. “I think this is a very reasonable aspect of expressing our diversity.”

According to Jesse Bernal, diversity coordinator at the UC Office of the President, discussions around this issue were already circulating prior to the passage of AB 620. Bernal said that a final decision on how to implement these efforts is “definitely at least a year out.”

Lawrence Pitts, UC provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, will make the final decision on how and when to implement a plan for the UC.

“We have an internal group that has been investigating the challenges to gather this information and how best to go about it,” Bernal said.

Similarly, CSU spokesperson Liz Chapin said that efforts at the CSU are also far from finalized. She said the CSU is still exploring the issue, but adding the question to the registration statement may be the best option.

“The bill does not have any specific timeline,” Bernal said. “The only specificity is whenever you update forms, you need to now include sexual orientation.”

Including sexual orientation in demographic efforts is largely uncharted territory at universities across the nation. According to Bernal, Elmhurst College in Illinois was the first to ask for this information in its application — a practice it began for the 2012-13 academic year.

Andrew Albright, a gay ASUC senator, said that coming to Berkeley from a conservative town was “like a breath of fresh air” and that UC Berkeley consistently ranks as one of the top schools in the country in terms of friendliness toward LGBT students.

“But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do more work,” he said. “I have friends who are called ‘faggot’ walking down the street, and I know people who have been forcibly kicked and beat at a party. Microaggressions happen every day, even in a place like Berkeley.”

Jessica Rossoni covers higher education.