Student pushes GW to ask LGBT applicants to identify

Correction appended

A Student Association senator and LGBT leader is lobbying the University to allow applicants to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender to better cater services toward those populations.

Student Association Sen. Nick Gumas, CCAS-U, who is also president of Allied in Pride, said adding the optional question to the application is crucial because it would be the only way to track the size of the LGBT population and understand what types of resources, such as counseling, to institute.

“It’s basically a giant mystery whenever the University does something for the LGBT community. It’s essentially a giant guess,” Gumas said.

Gumas presented a nonbinding SA resolution Monday to push the University to add the question to applications. The bill passed unanimously.

Gumas’ effort comes about a semester after president of the graduate Allied in Pride group Michael Komo lobbied the GW Law School to add the question to its application. GW applicants currently have the option of disclosing race, ethnicity and religion.

Terri Reed, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, said the University will decide whether to add the question to admissions applications after a new dean of admissions is hired this summer.

“We understand that issues of sexual and gender identity inclusion and visibility are important in higher education and that some colleges and universities are considering whether to add an optional LGBT identity question to their own applications,” Reed said.

She added that the University will “continue to include in our admissions applications questions that will help us attain a class that is diverse and talented.”

The addition could also allow GW to remain at the forefront of LGBT support in the nation. Only two other colleges – the University of Iowa and Elmhurst College in Illinois – already ask students on their application if they identify as gay or transgender.

“The question helps signify to an applicant that, the fact they’re even asking shows the University is cognizant of your needs,” said Komo, who served as Allied in Pride’s president for three years as an undergraduate.

Komo said the question will also help pair up people looking for networking opportunities and mentors on the undergraduate level.

The University made national headlines in 2010, when it became one of the first to offer gender-neutral housing across campus. GW added an LGBT studies minor two years ago, in addition to an LGBT resource center. GW also regularly earns high rankings from the nonprofit Campus Pride’s national listing of LGBT-friendly colleges and universities.

Gumas said he thinks that if GW were able to tally the number of LGBT students on campus, some students would be surprised to find the population smaller than they expect.

About 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay, according to a Gallup poll released this February.

“To put it bluntly, we think there are more gay people here than there actually are, just because they are vocal, but there are not as many as you think,” Gumas said.

Gumas, a sophomore, said he hopes to be elected as Allied in Pride president again next year, and said he would reach out to more student organizations, such as the GW Republicans and the Black Student Union, to collaborate on events. This year, he helped organize the fraternity drag show Allied in Greek, part of his mission to reinforce “that being gay is an identity, but it’s not your only identity.”

This article was updated April 4, 2013 to reflect the following:
A previous version of this article stated that Nick Gumas and the Student Association were lobbying for undergraduate applications to add the LGBT identification question. They are lobbying for the question to be added to applications University-wide, not exclusively to undergraduate applications. We regret this error.

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