Every year, Penn makes a concerted effort to convince minority applicants who have already been admitted to come to Penn. The crystallization of these efforts is Minority Scholars Weekend, a multi-day event where Penn tries its best to sell itself to these potential students.
If you identify as a racial minority — Latino, black, Asian and Native American — Admissions will invite you to Scholars Weekend. This makes sense. Penn is trying to convince these accepted applicants that our campus will provide them with the resources necessary to give them the best college experience possible. What doesn’t make sense is the weekend’s lack of inclusion to date of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender applicants.
The logic used to be that there was no real way to ascertain whether or not an applicant identified as LGBT. The Penn application contains an identifier question for racial minorities. However, you cannot check a box and self-identify as LGBT. Because there was no specific question, it would have been impossible to target these applicants and invite them to Scholars’ Weekend.
But this is no longer the case. Admissions has officially instituted a policy of noting LGBT applications. There is still no specific identifying question; rather, Admissions employees look for factors on the application that will indicate whether or not the applicant is LGBT. For example, if a student mentions her experience growing up as a lesbian in a conservative town in her essay, admissions will mark that applicant.
Now that Admissions is identifying LGBT applicants, it should take that extra leap and start inviting these applicants to Minority Scholars Weekend.
Currently, LGBT applicants only receive invitations if they also identify as another minority. “They were not specifically invited if they were just LGBT,” said Nursing junior and Lambda Alliance Vice-Chairwoman for Communications Julia Moon. “They were only invited if they had another quality.” LGBT applicants should receive invitations regardless of how else they identify.
Including these applicants can only be beneficial to Penn’s admissions efforts. If Penn is trying to diversify its student body further, then encouraging LGBT applicants to matriculate is a no-brainer. Increasing the LGBT community’s presence on campus will only lead to an increasing number of meaningful interactions between students of different backgrounds.
Additionally, minority applicants should see that Penn views the LGBT community here as a legitimate minority community. The Lambda Alliance works hand in hand with other minority coalitions through the 5B to improve the campus experience and environment for minority students. Applicants should be cognizant of this strong relationship from the beginning.
The fact that we have gone this long without inviting LGBT applicants to Minority Scholars Weekend is an embarrassment to the program. You cannot host a program aimed at showcasing the diversity of Penn’s student body and exclude one of the most dynamic minority communities on campus at the same time. LGBT applicants deserving of the same respect as other minority applicants. Asked if Lambda thought that Admissions should reach out to LGBT students in the future, Moon said, “Yes, definitely. They should reach out to them in the same way that we reach out to multicultural students.”
If Penn was targeting LGBT applicants back when I applied, I would have easily been identified because I wrote one of my essays on coming out to my parents. Had Penn invited me to Minority Scholars Weekend, I would have attended in a heartbeat. The invitation would have reassured me that Penn was the right place for me. I have no doubt that there are applicants out there right now who feel the same way.
Dennie Zastrow is a College senior from Wilson, N.Y. He is the former chairman of the Lambda Alliance. His e-mail address is email@example.com. A Dennie For Your Thoughts appears on Thursdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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