Related: Education, Social Issues, Women

Take Nothing for Granted

 
 

Women are now the majority in higher education, so we no longer have to worry about invidious discrimination, right?

Guess again.

This week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights launched a broad investigation of colleges and universities in response to news reports and other evidence that some of them are improperly, possibly illegally, discriminating against women in the admissions process.

The problem, it seems, is that many coeducational institutions are now worried that they have an “imbalance” of female students over male students, so they are willing to resort to discriminatory practices in admissions  — admitting a higher percentage of male applicants than female applicants, regardless of qualifications — in order to maintain some kind of gender balance on campus.   “Too many women,” it seems [or, in the words of one report, "too many girls" quote unquote] lead to all kinds of problems — a reputation for favoring women, demands for woman-centered pedagogy, a loss of enrollment of other women who don’t like being around too many women, and a loss of male enrollment.

Horrors.

Hmmm.   Seems to me they doth protest too much, and are not telling the real truth.

The real truth is this:  young men are dropping out of high school at alarming rates, especially among the rising populations of Hispanic and African American men, and the total population of academically prepared males is shrinking.  This problem cannot be solved by discriminating against female college applicants.   This is a very serious problem for K-12 education to resolve.

The second real truth is this:  coeducational colleges and universities must comply with Title IX mandates for equal funding for sports.   Football programs are hugely expensive, creating a gigantic imbalance in the allocation of funds for men’s sports and women’s sports.   Colleges are trying hard to keep their football programs as lures for male enrollment.  They are afraid that if they shut down these programs, they’ll have a worse male enrollment.  But keeping the programs when women are the majority on campus poses Title IX compliance problems because of the funding disparities between football and all other sports, including women’s  sports.

Now, back when women’s weren’t allowed to go to college, this was not a “problem.”  People who view this issue as a “female problem” in enrollment yearn for the good old days when women knew their place, which definitely was not in the science labs or podiums of universities.   Ironically, women’s colleges also really flourished in those days.    But women’s colleges made it possible for women to tear down the barriers at the formerly all-male institutions by proving that women would not go insane when faced with Statistics examinations.   So, we almost put ourselves out of business by proving what we were founded to do:  that women could reach the highest levels of academic and intellectual attainment.

The fact that women are doing this now in droves at universities is hardly a “problem” and those institutions that see it as such should give serious thought to the messages they are sending as they try to rebalance their gender ratios.   Rather than keeping talented women out, they should focus their energies on helping K-12 schools produce equally talented men.  The solution will be found in more high quality male applicants, not in returning women to 19th century exclusion.

Women, listen up:  take nothing for granted.  The Revolution is far from over!

More on this later today in my “On Success” column in the Washington Post.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: president@trinitydc.edu