Penn tops gay-friendly ranking

‘Newsweek’ ranked the University as the best gay-friendly school in the nation

· July 21, 2011, 5:19 am   ·  Updated July 21, 2011, 12:00 am

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Penn has once again topped Newsweek’s ranking of the best gay-friendly colleges in the United States.

The University was number one on Newsweek’s list last September as well. And in 2006, it was ranked first on The Advocate’s list of best schools for LGBT students.

Rising College senior and Chair of the Lambda Alliance Corinne Rich wrote in an email that she is “absolutely thrilled” to see Penn top the list again, citing Penn’s nature as a “relatively progressive, forward-thinking institution” as a pivotal reason for the success the school has had in ensuring a comfortable atmosphere for its LGBT students.

Newsweek compiles its list by drawing from rankings of LGBT-friendly schools published by The Advocate and InsideCollege.com and combining them with measures of academic strength such as selectivity and average SAT and ACT scores.

Newsweek also ranked Penn among the top 25 schools in six other lists, including first among most diverse schools and second among most desirable large schools.

Rich wrote that the reason Penn makes the gay-friendly ranking year after year is mainly because of the dedicated community members who “never stop working to improve life for LGBT staff, faculty and students on this campus.”

“We are fortunate enough to be at an institution that has fostered an environment of tolerance and respect for and between the diverse communities on campus,” she wrote.

LGBT Center Director Bob Schoenberg was also pleased with the Newsweek ranking.

Having worked at the LGBT Center for 29 years, he said that “it’s always very gratifying and exciting to get a positive ranking and high regards.”

Increasing numbers of self-identified LGBT students admitted to the University may contribute to these regards. According to Schoenberg, there were more LGBT and allied students admitted for the Class of 2015 compared to the Class of 2014.

Furthermore, Schoenberg said this was the second year that Penn used a flagging system to identify these students during the admissions process.

LGBT students are identified based on what they write in their application essays and list as their extracurricular activities. Unlike ethnicity and gender, which can be identified by responses in a check-box, sexual orientation and gender identity can only be recognized if applicants choose to self-identify as LGBT within another section of the application.

Only two programs at Penn — the Penn Law School and the Wharton MBA program — provide optional questions for applicants to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity, according to Schoenberg.

LGBT students who are flagged do not gain an advantage over their peers in the admissions process, Schoenberg said. “No preferential treatment is given to the students in the admission process,” he said. “Penn values diversity of all kind.”

Rather, if any of these students are admitted to Penn, they will subsequently have the opportunity to receive help from Schoenberg and members of the Lambda Alliance to become more acclimated to campus life.

Lambda Law, an LGBT-interest organization at Penn Law, also provides mentorship to newly admitted students.

C.J. Wahl, president of Lambda Law and rising second-year Penn Law student, said his organization is “very engaged in the [admissions] process” when it comes to attracting prospective LGBT students to apply and enroll at the Law School.

He said that Lambda Law reaches out to these students on Penn Law preview weekends, taking them out to dinners and answering questions.

“There is a very LGBT-accepting environment at Penn Law,” he said.

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