Penn Launches Outreach Program to LGBT Applicants

In response to the new outreach initiative directed toward LGBT-identified applicants at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 emphasized Harvard’s commitment to providing information to concerned applicants without invading students’ privacy.

Through Penn’s new program, announced last week, current Penn students involved in the LGBT community contact students whose applications indicate that they may be interested in gay life at Penn.

The Harvard admissions staff attends college fairs aimed at LGBT students and provides contact information online for staff and student groups who can answer questions about LGBT issues for interested students.

“We want to make certain that they understand that Harvard is a good place for students of all sexual orientations,” Fitzsimmons said. “We do everything in our power to make sure we’re reaching out to those students, given the discrimination in many high schools that LGBT students face.”

However, he said he worried that reaching out to specific individuals could be seen as a breach of privacy.


“We’re particularly concerned about some situations when a student may have real difficulty with their family because of their orientation,” he said, noting that this issue sometimes affects parents’ financial support.

Marco Chan ’11, co-chair of Harvard Queer Students and Allies, also said that privacy was an important concern. However, he said that avoiding such discussions would not help LGBT students feel more welcome.

“[Penn is] reaching out to students according to information the students volunteer, and the ones who would be comfortable enough explicitly stating their sexuality might not be the ones who need outreach most.”

Eva B. Rosenberg ’10, Chair of the Harvard Transgender Task Force, said that Harvard could avoid this dilemma by offering information about resources, policies, and support for the LGBT community to all applicants and not only those who may identify as LGBT.

“There are ways to let people know that they could be involved in queer movements or groups without assuming any particular identity,” she said. “I think students should be prepared to face and embrace communities of all kinds, and that’s what makes the Harvard experience unique.”

Chan said he would like to see a more formal outreach program from Harvard’s admissions office.

“High schoolers who identify as LGBT could definitely use a lot of outreach in knowing that their future college offers a welcoming community to people who identify with all kinds of genders and sexualities,” he said. “The onus is on the school and the school community to demonstrate that they are proactive in creating a safe environment.”

—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at

—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer can be reached at


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