Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Universities Have Become Less Male-Friendly!

A student alerted me to an essay by Glenn Harlan, entitled "Where the Boys Aren't." The premise of this article is that young males are underrepresented in colleges in the United States. More women are attending college, more women are graduating from college, and therefore more women are better competing for jobs that men who don't go won't get.

The fact that men aren't attending college at the same rate as women bothers Harlan so much that he considers this a social problem worthy of serious attention. I notice that his column's subtitle is "where free markets meet technology." So, how free market is this dude? Does he want state intervention into admissions policies for colleges that ensure 50/50 admission rates for men and women? Does he want state sponsored outreach programs that spend tax dollars recruiting underrepresented men to college campuses to ensure they don't get disenfranchised by a "matriarchal" system designed to bring men down and keep they systematically disempowered?

Barely halfway into his piece he writes:

One would be to treat it the way we treat other "underrepresentation" issues in higher education: By wondering what universities are doing wrong. There seems little doubt that universities have become less male-friendly in recent decades, to the point of being downright unfriendly in many cases. The kind of statements that are routinely made about males and masculinity in classrooms and hallways would get professors fired if they were made about blacks, gays, or many other groups. Sexual-harassment policies start with the presumption that men are guilty, and inherently depraved. And colleges now come at the tail-end of an educational system that is (compared to previous decades) anti-male from kindergarten on, meaning many males probably just want to get out as soon as they can.

Universities are less male-friendly. What a statement. This, of course, flies in the face of reality. Male faculty are still paid more than female faculty at the same rank. At my own college only one female is tenured in the Physics department. She received tenure last year (2004) and was the first female to ever get tenure in that department. 18% of all Ph.D.s in Physics are women and it took that long for the all male department to hire a female? What year is it? The majority of university Presidents are men. The majority of full professors are men. The list goes on and on and on.

It astounds me that Harlan considers universities to not be male-friendly places. You've got to be kidding me that the fact that many universities have Women Studies or Gender Studies programs that point out irrefutable facts such as those I just mentioned above or that most rapes (over 90%) are commited by men on women or other men has deterred men from attending college. This is what counts as not being male-friendly?

Not too long ago I had my students undertake an assignment to illustrate to them the representation of women in higher learning by consulting the syllabi of 10 friends (3 syllabi each). I asked students to consult these 30 different syllabi to determine how many female vs. male authors were taught. Unsurprisingly, women authors, academics, intellectuals, experts in the field, etc. were woefully missing from every one of these students' syllabi (and that is an omission made by both male and female faculty).

What is also just plain wrongheaded in this essay is to compare the act of pointing out institutional sexism, like I just did, or pointing out the real data on violence against women, to racism or homophobia. That just strains logic. But, that's not surprising, right? This is the new rhetorical strategy of the right: appropriate the language of victimhood to advocate for your cause. In this case, the social blight is that men, who artificially prevented women's entry into higher learning and the professions until the late 60s, are being outperformed by women.

Let's keep in mind here that women are not preventing men from being admitted to colleges by claiming that they are not intelligent enough to attend or that they won't need college to perform their appropriate roles in society.

All this article show is that men are losing out to women now that the playing field is a bit more even. And, this, gasp, is the a social problem? Moreover, a social problem that warrants reparations such as affirmative action for men?

Before I end this post I should point out that at my college's Admissions office already does have "affirmative action" for men. Out of all the applications, women are better qualified, based on G.P.A's and S.A.T.'s. Yet, the college decided they would rather have more of a gender balance so they admit men, who "strictly speaking" don't make the cut if we attend to just these numerical measures. Moreoever, women outperform these same men every year. You can tell they do so because they get first choice on housing (housing being awarded by G.P.A.).