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UI ‘first’ again with addition of LGBT admissions option

BY STACEY MURRAY | DECEMBER 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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Yet again, the University of Iowa distinguishes itself with a first.

As of Dec. 1, students applying to the University of Iowa are able to mark transgendered as an option under gender identification.  Applicants will also have the option to identify with the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, and questioning community.

“The university has been at the forefront for LGBTQ students as well as faculty,” said Molly Tafoya, the communications director for One Iowa.

The UI is the first public institution in the United States to ask students questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity — a move to make students feel at-home and comfortable with the university.

“I hope this enables the students to feel more content,” said Georgina Dodge, the UI chief diversity officer. “It indicates to future students that we identify and welcome them.”

With the new options, UI officials hope to adequately gauge the number of students identifying with the LGBTQ community, something that isn’t currently available for officials.

“We only have anecdotal numbers,” Dodge said. “This will provide us some beginning to make sure we provide adequate services to the students.”

The discussion for a third gender-identity option has been ongoing until recently when technology allowed the UI to pursue it.

The UI’s newest technology system, Made at the University of Iowa, allowed the university to make changes to standardized forms, in turn making alternative gender identification optional.

“Everything seemed to come together this past fall, and collectively, we decided this was the direction we wanted to go,” said Michael Barron, the director of UI Admissions. “It was an appropriate time, because other changes were being made to the online application.”

With the newest addition to the application, Jefri Palermo, a co-head of the UI LGBT Students and Faculty Association, said this is a “fabulous improvement.”

“I salute, admire, and thank all of those people who played a role in making this happen,” she said. “Institutional change like this is very difficult to accomplish; the UI should be proud of its accomplishment.”

Officials are unsure of the number of students who will honestly answer the survey for various reasons — many college students come to terms with sexuality issues when in college or may not identify with a parent watching the application process.

“There will be people who don’t identify [with the LGBT community] but actually do,” Barron said. “It’s a question of being able to reach back to them and let them know the resources and those things exist.”

But while officials are positive about the change, some students remain hesitant.

“There’s concern in the general community,” said Michael Fitz, a UI student identifying as a member of the LGBTQ community. “They need to make sure there are limits imposed to ensure they will not use it for certain things.”

With the statistical information available because of the new sexual-orientation question, officials could get inaccurate numbers, hurting the programs currently available. The form doesn’t account for the allies of the community who participate in the programs.

“There is more to be to concerned with than those who mark ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ ” said UI sophomore Richelle Miller, an ally of the LGBTQ community. “There are allies to think about.”

Students said they also see the third option for gender identification as progress.

“There are still barriers even within the LGBTQ community [for transgender students], and any steps for them to be included is a very good step,” she said.


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