Last spring, Penn became one of the first universities to reach out to accepted students who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. For the incoming class of 2015, such efforts are already underway — in a more developed form.
Initially, about 60 students were contacted through the program, which was limited to regular decision applicants last year. This year, the program has expanded to include those who apply early decision.
LGBT Center Director Bob Schoenberg said that there has already been a noticeable increase in LGBT applicants, based on the results from early decision.
The outreach process consists first of “flagging” students who identified themselves as LGBT, considered themselves a strong ally to the community or had LGBT parents, according to Schoenberg.
After the applications are flagged by readers, they undergo the same deliberation process which is “equal for all students,” he said. Once accepted, students are matched with members of the Lambda Alliance — Penn’s umbrella organization for the LGBT community — who contact them personally via e-mail.
The program is designed to inform students about “resources on campus and ways to connect with LGBT and ally communities,” Regional Director of Admissions and LGBT liaison Jordan Pascucci wrote in an e-mail.
For those who applied regular decision, it aims to “encourage applicants to come to Penn,” Schoenberg said. However, for early decision applicants who are already committed to coming to Penn, it is unnecessary to use the outreach to recruit students to the school.
Amidst the efforts on the part of the University, numerous misconceptions about the nature of the program have arisen. Schoenberg cited officials like college counselors who believe that the “program gives their applicants a leg up, when it absolutely does not.”
College junior and Lambda Alliance chairwoman Corinne Rich agreed. “It’s not affirmative action, though it has been painted that way a couple of times,” she said.
Instead, the outreach effort reflects a sentiment among University administrators about “the important role of LGBT people in Penn’s community,” Pascucci wrote.
The program has seen “nothing but positive results,” Rich said, adding that the outreach is “definitely a big part of a grander effort to get more LGBT students applying to Penn.”
College freshman Noah Levine expressed support for the outreach. “Normally, when you receive personal letters from schools, they were from honors programs and pretty generic,” he said. “This is more like, ‘This is a good school where you can be yourself and be accepted.’”
Though Levine self-identified in his application, he was not directly contacted by a member of the Lambda Alliance. Schoenberg attributed such miscommunication to the “last-minute” nature of last year’s outreach but expressed hope that more experience and accelerated planning will continue to fine-tune the program for upcoming years.