Students in California may be asked to declare sexuality when enrolling

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Prospective students at the University of California and California State University campuses may be asked to volunteer information when applying or enrolling next year on whether they are LGBT.

This partially arises from an obscure state law aimed at discerning whether students at said institutions are getting enough services, including counselling. But, according to The Los Angeles Times, there are concerns about privacy.

Since 2006, the University of California (UC) has asked about students’ sexual orientation in an annual informal poll about campus life – but without using student names.

The shift comes in response to a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown last autumn which called for educational institutions to adopt policies discouraging bullying of LGBT students. The law also asks – but does not require – state campuses to allow students to state their sexual orientation.

Jesse Bernal, the University of California’s diversity coordinator said: “It would be useful to know if we are underserving the population.” He added that giving students the opportunity to answer such questions, “sends a positive message of inclusiveness to LGBT students and creates an environment that is inclusive and welcoming of diverse populations.”

UC Berkeley student Andrew Albright, who is gay and a student government activist, said some LGBT students might initially be nervous about how their responses would be used. He added, however, that he believed most would participate if the potential benefits – such as increased services – were made clear and if the UC kept its promises to only use the information confidentially and in aggregates.

“I think in general it’s a good thing”, said Mr Albright. “Beyond counseling services, professors might alter approaches to various lectures if they know a sizable percentage of the class is gay or lesbian.”