Gary Rold didn't necessarily consider himself a pioneer when he decided that Elmhurst College would begin asking applicants about their sexual orientation.
"I thought from the recruitment standpoint we might be more proactive" in attracting gay and lesbian students, said Rold, admissions dean at the small, private liberal arts school tucked in a middle-class Chicago suburb. He also wanted to make sure the students got any help they needed. "I realized that many of them come to college feeling really isolated and alienated."
Rold's decision touched off a flurry of publicity after advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students lauded Elmhurst as the first in the nation to ask applicants about sexual orientation — an idea that has gotten little traction elsewhere. Now the question is, will other colleges follow suit?
Advocates say that besides being a recruiting tool to help diversify campuses, openly assessing a school's LGBT population would make colleges more aware of needs such as finding tolerant roommates and providing appropriate health care. And it would send a positive message to prospective students who may have faced discrimination in high school.