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A quantitative question

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MARCH 16, 2012

Diversity remains a hot topic across the University of California system. At UC Berkeley, for example, the Division of Equity and Inclusion oversees initiatives to better serve students of all backgrounds. A plan that would ask new UC students to state their sexual orientation is a positive step toward further accommodating each campus’s unique makeup.

A bill passed through the state Legislature in 2011 requires the California State University and community colleges to collect data on the sexual orientation of their students. In January, the UC Academic Senate recommended that UC schools do the same. Because of California state law, the data cannot factor into admissions decisions. While implementation at the CSU and community col­leges has no deadline, and the UC’s efforts may come to fruition even later, being able to someday quantify how many students identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other increases the capacity of each campus to meet its students’ needs.

Giving students the option to state their orientation affirms the diversity already present at the UC.

Administrators tasked with interpreting the data should remember the still-sensitive nature of sexual orientation in American society. But nevertheless, the ability of UC campuses to collect statistics on the young people they teach outweighs the marginal costs of doing so. The UC strives to serve Californians from all backgrounds — being aware of the extent to which it does can only help make that quest a reality.

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MARCH 16, 2012