The NYTimes today has a front page story, which is the first of a series on The New Gender Divide, analyzing why women are outperforming men in college and what colleges are doing or not doing to maintain gender parity. Interestingly, American University has done nothing, and therefore has tilted to a majority of female students. On the other hand, Dickinson College--one that I know well--has put a great deal of effort into recruiting more men and admitting more men (who may not be as qualified as the women) in the name of "diversity."
I have written before about the issue of admitting more unqualified men to college in the name of gender parity. I am not sure I have anything fresh to say about this piece, other than to reflect a bit on the strategy of Robert Massa, Vice President for Enrollment at Dickinson College.
"Well, as you know, women are outperforming men in high school and therefore are admitted at higher rates to colleges and universities nationally. However, we find that when there is no gender parity, the men who are accepted behave badly to the female students, because, well they can. So, to fix this problem, we are launching a huge campaign to attract more male athletes to campus, with an eye to nurturing better relations between the sexes!"
While I don't doubt that fewer men means that those men can become bigger assholes because they are more prized, it seems like shoddy logic to admit more men to protect the fragile-hot-house-flower women. Are these women more vulnerable in Central Pennsylvania than they are at American University, which maintains gender-blind admissions?
I also find it depressing, which is different than being outraged, that Dickinson consciously features their Physics, Math and Computer Science Programs to attract more men. While it is surely the case that men are still more likely to major in these subjects than women are, it seems depressing to me that they are playing to that strength to get more men on campus, and thereby reinforcing unfortunate stereotypes that these subjects are better suited for men rather than women. I am equally depressed, btw, that Dickinson's response to a higher number of women was to start a Women's Studies minor, Women's Center and teach courses with Woolf or Jane Austen. Is it really true that faculty used the fact of higher female enrollment to justify these programs? No faculty were teaching courses on women's writers before the female enrollment boom? And, if that is true, does that mean the converse is true: namely, that all courses and programs one would find in colleges before women started outpacing men were designed to keep men's interest and attract men to the colleges? So anything pre-women's movement is a relic of a time when colleges competed solely for men's interest?
Finally, if Dickinson is truly concerned about the danger their young women face on campuses with fewer, and thereby highly prized men, then why does reinforcing gender stereotypes actually fix the problem? Do you really want to get more male athletes to improve gender relations on campus? I don't follow the thinking here at all.
What do the rest of you, my male and female readers, make of this new trend story, wherein men are suffering in schools, women are excelling and we think this is a bit of crisis? What is the best approach to better engaging male students?
Above all, is gender parity a "good" in itself?