Elmhurst College put a question on its admissions application that won’t appear on any other school's application.
"Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community?”
That optional question makes Elmhurst the first school in the country to ask applicants about their sexual orientation or gender identity, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Gary Rold, the dean of students at Elmhurst, stressed the question falls in line with the campus’ mission statement to increase diversity.
"We're offering an incentive to a group of students who are looking for a home and may not find that in a lot of other places, we consider that a good thing. It's very consistent with our mission," said Rold.
Prospective freshmen and transfer students applying for the 2012 fall semester will become the first group of applicants to check "yes," "no" or "prefer not to answer."
Their answers will not play a role in the admissions process.
A "yes" answer could put students in line to qualify for a scholarship worth one-third of tuition at the private, liberal arts school affiliated with the United Church of Christ, said Rold.
The college also plans to direct students to groups or resources to help them feel more comfortable on campus.
"We try really hard to take good care of students, have them graduate and be successful citizens in the world,” he said.
Modesto Tico Valle, CEO of Center on Halsted in Chicago, called the move another step in the right direction.
"As our society continues to become more open and welcoming to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, it makes sense that institutions are giving individuals more opportunities to express their diversity," Tico Valle said. "We trust Elmurst is working to foster a culture where LGBT students feel welcome and safe not only in the application process but throughout their entire college career."
Not everyone feels that way.
"In defending their decision to include a question about 'sexual orientation,' by asserting an offensive and absurd comparison of race to a condition constituted by subjective desire and volitional sexual acts, Elmhurst College administrators reveal their own ignorance," said David E. Smith, executive director of Illinois Family Institute, in a statement.