Duke It Out: Gay Affirmative Action

[It’s pretty obvious that the average CollegeCandy reader has some very strong opinions. Opinions that she likes to share with everyone on the site. Sometimes with mean words. We love a strong woman (unless she happens to be charging at us with her fists raised), so we thought we’d give her a real forum to discuss her thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. Every Friday I’ll be featuring a hot topic (like whether we date men like our dads!) and leaving it up to you, the readers, to duke it out. So, read it and get your debate on in the comments section below!]

It’s no secret that getting admission to a college (especially big names like the Ivy League) is kind of a crap shoot. Sure, you need the grades, the activities, the involvement; but we all also know that sometimes you can give your application a little nudge that has nothing to do with academics. Your parents worked two jobs each to help take care of you and your three siblings and it taught you the value of responsibility and family — admissions gold. Or you spent half of your childhood in another country and had to learn the wonder and struggles of adapting your proud cultural heritage to life in the Midwest — brilliant. These kinds of things have been a leg-up in the admissions process for years and now, it turns out, there’s a brand new one that schools are actively seeking out — LGBT.

That’s right, when just a couple of decades ago many people couldn’t RISK coming out in college, now schools are trying to recruit applicants from the LGBT community and while I have no qualms about that, I gotta wonder if it’s fair.

I have a long-standing record on this column of being pro gay rights, and that’s not a streak I plan on breaking, but this is one area where I have some serious mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s great that schools are being active with the gay community and embracing their students’ sexualities as a part of who they are. It’s wonderful that they’re going to an effort to show students that they can be open, active and comfortable in their school and embracing that the challenges faced by many LGBT students are character shaping  and meaningful. Good job, colleges! It’s also not really affirmative action, so it’s not as though schools are trying to fill a certain quota; it’s just that if a good applicant comes along with the added twist of being LGBT, then it might give him or her a little boost.

No, the problem I have with this idea isn’t really about gay students getting a leg-up on the competition because of their sexuality or maybe taking a slot away from someone else based on that – though it is possible – my real problem is the implications for the gay communities within these schools. First of all, while I hate to think it, it would be a hell of a lot easier to fake a traumatic coming out story than something like, coming from a low-income family. It’s not really something admissions officers can check up on and there probably are dishonest students who would fake it or play up their own less dramatic experiences just to edge out the competition. There’s also the issue of creating an archetype for the gay student. Schools aren’t  just going around asking recruits if they’re LGBT, they see activism on transcripts with a certain expectation that it will continue – that an LGBT recruit won’t just be a student, but an involved, gay student. And while getting involved in the community is great, it puts a pressure on the student to be a certain kind of gay student – to be out and active and “gay.” There’s a lot more to an individual than their sexuality and to fit them into one little box, to put so much emphasis on who you are sexually, is kind of discrimination in reverse.

So what do you think? Should school’s look at something like sexuality when choosing students? Is being LGBT suddenly an unfair admissions advantage over straight students? Is it good or bad for the LGBT community? Duke it out!

In the mood for a good fight? Sound off in Lauren’s other battles.

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