My oldest son graduated from high school this summer and is now pursuing a career as a filmmaker. It was a proud moment for him, and for me his mom, when he won second place in a local filmmaking competition for his very first documentary. Of course, I would have loved his documentary even if the subject was about something I know nothing about like Dubstep. Okay, so someone please tell how this is any better than music from the 80’s? But I digress here.
His film is actually about a topic I know a little something about as a queer mom who has questioned my sexual identity in the not too distant past. And it’s also, at the same time, about something I really know very little about too, because I have never questioned my gender. His film “Other” is about a very important topic for a lot of teens at his school. It is about gender and how kids are choosing to identify. It’s about challenging stereotypes. It’s about education. And mostly it’s about diversity. (And as soon as he gets it back online again, I’ll link it here.)
And speaking of diversity, there are a few things I think are worth repeating about MIT. Things that make it such a great place to work and be a student.
1. MIT is very diverse -with no majority ethnicity for one- and the Institute really believes in a person’s freedom of self-expression. Anyone who is taking part in REX right now can probably feel it.
2. And MIT has a non-discrimination policy that is worth taking a look at it. Here’s the statement.
But I think one of the best things about MIT is that we are not part of the common application, which means we get to consider changes and additions to questions we include on our application completely independent of all the other common app schools and their particular needs. Right now, a small liberal arts college in Illinois is paving the way for what will soon be something for more Admissions offices to consider. Way to go Elmhurst!
I think it’s about time that there are questions about sexual identity and gender identity on college applications and it’s my personal hope that MIT won’t be far behind in including these as well. I echo the sentiments of a commenter on the Elmhurst article who writes:
“The question doesn’t give them an advantage over other students, nor would it disqualify them from anything. It is what it appears to be: an optional self-identifier. No smoke or mirrors, no secret agenda, no harm. The application is in a section that states that Elmhurst College is committed to diversity and that if people choose to self-identify with any of a number of questions, they would like to help connect students with resources on campus… “
And when it comes to resources on campus, MIT has the rainbow lounge, where I will be this week welcoming members of the freshman class at a couple of orientation events. And MIT also has this really wonderful website that is full of educational resources about transgender issues. Check it out.
This a wonderful institution in so many ways and no matter how you choose to identify, just remember:
You are welcome here.
Good grief! What does any of this gender and sexuality stuff have to do with MIT’s mission?
MIT admissions should focus on academic ability, intellectual interests, character and personality. Those things are relevant to the ability to succeed at MIT, benefit from attendance at MIT and enrich the MIT community. Gender and sexual identity are irrelevant to the ability to succeed at MIT, benefit from attendance at MIT and enrich the MIT community.
It would be impossible for me to disagree more, anonymous EC.
For one thing, understanding a student’s gender and sexuality helps form the context of their experience, and their resulting perspective. It is not a determinative characteristic any more than being rich or poor or black or white or rural or urban or interested in computer science / humanities / or anything else. It is another piece of the jigsaw puzzle which constitutes each applicant.
But for another, more important thing: Kris was talking here about the idea that students are welcome at MIT. Sadly, many queer students are not welcome in all communities. I think Kris’ post emphasizes how accessible MIT is to students who often find doors slammed in their faces. And I stand behind that effort 100%.
Anonymous MIT EC — what you do you suppose makes up someone’s character, personality, ability and interests? It is several things, one of which is being able to completely and totally express who you are in this world. If you don’t feel safe being ‘out’ and proud, don’t you think your full potential will also be hiding deep inside? I think Kris is right on the mark with demonstrating that MIT is welcoming to the LGBT community. Think of this — what if your daughter or son is looking for colleges to attend, and you don’t find out until after the fact that s/he has four long years to hide who s/he really is? Wouldn’t you rather know up front?
I must agree with the last two comments. Once the delicate steel door is slammed shut, it takes a special combination of trust and acceptance to reopen the gateway to vulnerability. When a student passes from highschool to college, the transition is not only daunting from a physical standpoint, it is the determining factor of how this student will spend the rest of his or her life as a collegian. A solid foundation of being able to be oneself can only leave a wide open canvas for possibilities. MIT EC, take another look at these comments and perhaps you’ll find more latitude in your thinking.