UNC Law Asks Applicants About Sexual Orientation
Special Report - January 21, 2008
The UNC-CH School of Law has added a new question to its 2008 Law School application: “Do you self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer?” In response to an inquiry from a North Carolina Family Policy Council (NCFPC) Attorney, an admissions counselor for the Law School stated that the question is new this year and that its intent is to “attract a well-balanced class of people,” because diversity “creates stimulating conversation and discussion in the classroom.” The Law School admissions counselor did not deny that UNC may grant a preference in admissions to applicants on the basis of their “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” stating that this question is just one more way of finding out about a person’s diverse interests and background, just like LSAT scores, grades, undergraduate activities, work experience, and the personal statement. “We look for people who bring something different to the table. We take a comprehensive look at candidates,” the admissions counselor stated.
She also stated that the question is purely optional, applicants are not required to answer it, and that many applicants leave the answer blank. Another question on the application about ethnicity asks applicants to identify themselves as either Asian, Black, Native American, Mexican American, White, etc. and contains an explanation that the answer is, “voluntary: for Office of Civil Rights.” The question about “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” however, does not state that it is “voluntary” or “optional.”
Bill Brooks, President of the NCFPC commented, “There can be only two options for the purpose of a question about an applicant’s ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity:’ either these factors give the applicant an advantage in admissions, or these factors give the applicant a disadvantage in admissions, and it certainly seems to be the former. Otherwise, there is no reason to ask the question.” Brooks continued: “Applicants are qualified on the basis of their applications, so only those questions which are pertinent to their qualifications should be contained in the application. A person’s ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity’ is irrelevant to his or her qualifications to be admitted to our publicly funded law schools.”
There is no law in North Carolina that requires or authorizes UNC-CH Law School admissions officials to grant preferences on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” during the admissions process. Furthermore, there is no federal law that requires special recognition or preferences during admissions processes in higher education on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act provides that: “No person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This provision has been the basis of U. S. Supreme Court cases that allow racial preferences in admissions to institutions of higher education. However, nothing in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires special treatment for persons who identify themselves as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer.”
A survey of applications for other law schools in the State (Duke, Wake Forest, N. C. Central, Campbell and Elon) confirmed that UNC-CH School of Law is the only law school asking the question about an applicant’s “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” While several of the other law schools ask questions about how a student’s background and experiences might bring diversity to the student body (Wake Forest, Campbell and Elon), those questions are truly optional and do not specifically ask about an applicant’s “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.