Friday, February 26, 2010

Penn Wants To Welcome Gays

Why is the University of Pennsylvania reaching out to its admitted applicants who are gay? Their dean of admissions says that the university wants to reach out and enroll gays in the same way that they reach out to Blacks or to students with a particular interest. "We are speaking to students on [sic] the areas that they are most interested in," says the dean. What about the students who are interested in being heterosexual? Or being Christian? What about the students who are interested in classical music or cross-country skiing?

Colleges have wooed older students, non-traditional students, Blacks, Hispanics, females, first-generation college go-ers and Native Americans (have I forgotten anyone?). Now that there are virtually no 'underserved' groups left to recruit--except white, upper-middle class teen-age boys who work hard and like sports---Penn has invented one and wants to be "pro-active" for those "who are looking for a gay-friendly campus." Will we soon have the other Ivies out-doing Penn by flying gay and lesbian high school students to their campuses for gay visit days? Will colleges send their directors of LGBT services out to high school college fairs? Will we see adjusted admissions standards for gays? Special scholarships? Certainly, gay housing accommodations are in order.

Reaching out to gays is most likely a marketing tool for Penn, but their out-reach will probably be more effective in balkanizing the university community than anything else. Celebrating diversity usually divides rather than unites. When I was at Barnard College in the 70s there was BOSS, the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters. The Black students lived together on one floor which happened one year to be the floor directly above me. When a decidedly White, blonde student on my floor went upstairs to ask the Soul Sisters to turn down their music, the Sisters reportedly flew off the handle and gave our White sister a talking-to. I don't think I ever sat next to, talked to, rode the elevator with or made even the remotest acquaintance of a single one of the Soul Sisters during my four years at Barnard.

Penn's approach is being praised by the chairman of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Caucus of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (oh,you didn't know there was such a group?). And, a group called Campus Pride will soon "be asking the Common Application to add a sexual orientation question so that colleges can refine recruiting techniques and also consider the diversity of their applicant pools in the same way they do now based on race and ethnicity, gender, geography and academics."

In the meantime, what is a white, heterosexual college applicant to do?

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