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The Carletonian

The Class of 2021 reports record number of LGBTQ+ students, fewer students of color

<an style="vertical-align: baseline">The Class of 2021 set a record for its proportion of LGBTQ+ students. According to data collected through Haven, the college’s sexual violence prevention course, 26 percent of first-years identifies as LGBTQ+, the highest-ever proportion for an entering class. Meanwhile, 2 percent of the class identifies as transgender or gender- nonbinary, another significant uptick from last year.

“We’re seeing a growing diversity in our applicant pool as to how students identify,” said Dean of Admissions Paul Thiboutot. He suggested the growing national awareness and influence of the LGBTQ+ community as one reason why.  “I’ve been the dean here for 30 years, and if we go back to 2000, I don’t think we ever saw a GSA or related group in high school,” Thiboutot said. “But now I don’t think there’s a high school in the country that doesn’t have one. Awareness and therefore self-representation has increased as a result of that. It really has changed, even at the high school level. There’s just greater awareness and growth.”

Additionally, Thiboutot mentioned Carleton’s reputation of strong support networks for LGBTQ+ students as a potential cause of the uptick.

“Do we go out and say we’re looking for a lesbian or a gay student? No. But we do make sure our information is available, that we let people know of the resources we have here for LGBTQ students? Yes, yes and yes. We represent everything we do to serve those students.”

Gender and Sexuality Center Director Laura Haave, meanwhile, expressed some concerns that her organization’s current resources might not be enough to support the many new LGBTQ+ identifying students. “If we have more students soon who are doing their own stuff and coming to GSC events, we may find Clader House [currently home to the GSC] to be too small. It’s a temporary space, it’s a little out of the way. We wonder, if we have students coming to events at night, will this be too small?”

Nevertheless, Haave mentioned that around 25 percent of the student body as a whole identifies as LGBTQ+, while another one to two percent identify as gender nonbinary.“Often,” Haave said, “we’ll have a lower number of first-year students [who are LGBTQ+-identifying], and developmentally it’s pretty normal for that percentage to increase over a class’s time at college. When I say that about 25 percent of students identify as LGBTQ+ and one to two percent identify as gender nonbinary, that’s for the whole student body, so when I see this many already in this class, that’s a lot, that’s more than that’s been in the past. To me, that’s exciting. I’m like, ‘oh, this is awesome!’”

Haave also expressed excitement about the potential for more LGBTQ+ community engagement. “I imagine that some of the students who are freshmen now may apply to be GSCAs, meaning we may have a really engaged class next year in order to serve the needs of their class. I’m waiting to hear from the Class of 2021, what you all need and what you all think, and I’m looking forward to finding that out.”

However, as diversity in terms of gender and sexuality increased, racial and ethnic diversity decreased from last year to this year. However, in spite of the slight downturn in representation for students of color, Interim OIIL Director Brisa Zubia remains optimistic. “I’m not hugely concerned when we talk about there being a dip when we talk about domestic students of color representation,” she said. “Having been a student here back in 2001, the representation we had then, both in regards to domestic students of color and international students, is very different from what we had now. I’ve seen the commitment that Carleton has had to increasing diversity on campus, so this slight dip we’ve had is not concerning to me at the moment.”

Zubia also mentioned being pleased with growth in the international student population. “The numbers have been increasing steadily due to a strategic plan we’d been putting in motion, specifically looking at international students.” International student representation has risen from 8 percent in the Class of 2020, to 11 percent in that of 2021.

Thiboutot noted that the percentage of students of color in the Class of 2021, while down from the Class of 2020, was still the second highest ever. “We have to deal with fluctuations from year to year,” he said. “I have to look long-term, if we look long term at the proportion of students of color it’s on an upswing.” He expressed hope that, in the near future, “we can continue approaching 30 percent students of color.”

“When I think of underrepresented students,” said Zubia of OIIL,“students of color, international students, what I think of is, ‘Is this a safe space? Will I have friends? Will I be supported?’”

“I hope,” Haave added, “people see Carleton as a place where students can come and say ‘hey, this is a place where I can be my authentic self and find a community.’”

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