Students planning to enroll in California state colleges and universities may be asked to declare their sexual orientation from next year on application or enrollment forms, in an effort to gauge the size of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) population.
Though the move is largely seen as positive by the gay community, it also raises concerns regarding an individual's right to privacy, despite the students being free to not answer the question if they don't want to.
Since 2006, the University of California (UC) has used an informal poll about campus life to document students' sexuality, without registering their names. But documenting sexuality from the enrollment form is rather uncommon for any educational institution.
An obscure state-law that encourages the state college authorities to explore whether they are offering adequate services, such as counseling for the students, is apparently the reason behind the new development, Los Angeles Times reported.
It would be useful to know if we are under-serving the population, Jesse Bernal, the UC system's interim diversity coordinator told LA Times. In addition, giving students the opportunity to answer such questions, sends a positive message of inclusiveness to LGBT students and creates an environment that is inclusive and welcoming of diverse populations, he added.
Vincent Vigio, the director of LGBT Resource Center at the University of Southern California, called it an empowering move.
It gives numbers to an invisible population, Vigio told NBC.
However, people have expressed concern that since parents can see students' applications, writing about sexual orientation in the forms may lead to friction in their family lives, given the conservative outlook many parents still maintain. It is also feared that data could be misused or improperly divulged, putting the students' personal lives in jeopardy.
Elmhurst College, a private school in Illinois, is reportedly the first in the US to ask applicants to fill in details about their sexual orientation.