New question considered for LGBT law applicants

by Mary Sette

Michael Komo, a first-year law student and Student Bar Association senator, advocated for the GW Law School to add LGBT status to applications next year. Responses will help the school track gay and transgender applicants to match them up with mentors.
Media Credit: Delaney Walsh | Hatchet Photographer
Michael Komo, a first-year law student and Student Bar Association senator, advocated for the GW Law School to add LGBT status to applications next year. Responses will help the school track gay and transgender applicants to match them up with mentors.

Correction appended

GW Law School applicants already face questions about writing samples, transcripts and letters of recommendation. But next year, they could confront a new question: Are you gay?

The school might join only four top 20 law schools to add LGBT status to its applications by tracking the number of gay and transgender applicants to set up better support services and pair students with alumni and mentors, first-year law student and Student Bar Association senator Michael Komo said.

As an undergraduate, Komo was president of Allied in Pride.

“It would encourage LGBT applicants to apply knowing that GW would be a supportive place for them to be and a good fit," Komo said.

Sophia Sim, the law school's associate dean for admissions and financial aid, said she did not think a move would have an impact on applications, "because we are already well known for being an open community." The Law School Admission Council common e-application also already asks the question, she added.

But, she added, the move could also provide a "better understanding our prospective students allows us to provide more comprehensive information regarding our academic programs, student services and mentoring initiatives."

The law school scores perfectly on the admission council's LGBT survey because of its non-discrimination policy, LGBT student organization, LGBT faculty and administrators, LGBT specific courses and domestic partnership benefits.

Elmhurst College, a private four-year institution in Illinois, generated buzz in 2011 when it added the question to its undergraduate application. University of Iowa became the second school to do so in December.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said adding the LGBT question is not yet being considered on the undergraduate level because the admissions office has not started planning next year’s application.

Former undergraduate admissions dean Kathryn Napper said in fall 2011 that she would hesitate to add the question to GW’s undergraduate application for fear of adding anxiety to the application process.

Komo formally presented the idea to law school administrators in the fall, comparing the law school’s application with that of its peer schools, such as Boston University, University of Pennsylvania and University of Washington, which include the LGBT option for applicants.

He said he was partly inspired to present the idea when visiting Boston University’s law school, where he said he was paired with the president of the gay law student organization to learn about “the LGBT campus life, the faculty and just Boston itself.”

“That was really nice to have that connection immediately if I had any questions or concerns through the application process,” he said.

He hopes to see similar connections made at GW. The law school will start to match LGBT applicants with alumni or student mentors, which Komo said will help GW “reach diverse candidates and ensure that the law school continues to be a place that is attractive to candidates of all kinds of backgrounds.”

When Komo steered GW’s undergraduate LGBT student organization, he helped transform the University’s policies on gay issues. He successfully pushed for the creation of the LGBT Resource Center, the LGBT academic minor and gender neutral housing.

Nick Gumas, president of Allied in Pride, which has advocated for issues like free condom distribution in the past year, said the move in the law school showed that it was “validating the existence of its LGBT students.”

“This is a great step forward for the LGBT community, and I hope to see our administration move forward to include this in our University’s undergraduate application as well,” he said.

This article was updated Feb. 6, 2013 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the GW Law School had finalized a decision to add LGBT status to its application questions. The move is still under consideration. We regret this error.

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