Commentary Magazine


Topic: commission spokeswoman

All in the Name of Diversity

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is looking into suspected gender discrimination at colleges and universities. As this report explains, women are “more plentiful” in college admissions, despite years of angst generated by the feminist civil-rights lobby about supposed discrimination against girls. Women are approaching 60 percent of the applicant pool. So it may be that, in the name of gender bias, schools are now trying to suppress the number of females they admit in order to give a boost to less deserving males:

William and Mary admitted 43 percent of its male applicants and 29 percent of its female applicants in fall 2008, according to its institutional data. Vassar College in New York’s Hudson Valley admitted 34 percent of the men who applied and 21 percent of the women. Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania admitted 19 percent of male applicants and 14 percent of female applicants. Wesleyan University in Connecticut admitted 30 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women. Female applicants far outnumbered male candidates at all four schools.

This week the commission will decide on the precise schools to examine from a pool of “nonprofit, non-seminary, four-year institutions that have more than 1,000 students, are at least moderately selective and are within 100 miles of Washington.” If the schools are public or publicly funded and have a two-tiered system for women and male applicants, “that would be illegal,” a commission spokeswoman explained.

Some of the college administrators aren’t so adept at covering their tracks. For example, the dean of admissions at the University of Richmond confides: “It’s always going to be an issue because there are not enough men in the pipeline.” So they need a little “help,” one supposes, so that “enough” men arrive on campus. Others try to obscure the issue in a haze of verbiage, parroting the language of applicable Supreme Court cases that have held that, for example, admissions officers can consider the applicant’s race as one of many factors:

According to higher-education leaders, investigators will be hard-pressed to find a college, public or private, that is intentionally favoring one sex over the other. Most of the region’s selective colleges practice “holistic” admissions, a process that considers each applicant as an individual, and as a whole, rather than as a sum of grades, test scores and demographic traits, in the quest to build a diverse class.

“In terms of importance, an applicant’s gender is near the bottom of the list of factors considered,” said Tony Pals, spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in the District.

“Near the bottom” — but apparently still a factor.

This is noteworthy for several reasons. First, where are the Justice Department and so-called feminist groups? They apparently don’t much care if women are now on the short end of gender preferences. It’s all about “diversity,” you see. And second, one realizes how misplaced has been the hue and cry about anti-female discrimination in education. Apparently there is no civil-rights or other organization upset that men now make up only 40 percent of the college-admissions pool. Are they being discriminated against? Are their educational needs being ignored? We don’t know, and no one seems interested in finding out why.

As I and others have pointed out before, the commission is filling a gap in the civil-rights arena, asking questions others won’t. The results of the study should be illuminating.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is looking into suspected gender discrimination at colleges and universities. As this report explains, women are “more plentiful” in college admissions, despite years of angst generated by the feminist civil-rights lobby about supposed discrimination against girls. Women are approaching 60 percent of the applicant pool. So it may be that, in the name of gender bias, schools are now trying to suppress the number of females they admit in order to give a boost to less deserving males:

William and Mary admitted 43 percent of its male applicants and 29 percent of its female applicants in fall 2008, according to its institutional data. Vassar College in New York’s Hudson Valley admitted 34 percent of the men who applied and 21 percent of the women. Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania admitted 19 percent of male applicants and 14 percent of female applicants. Wesleyan University in Connecticut admitted 30 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women. Female applicants far outnumbered male candidates at all four schools.

This week the commission will decide on the precise schools to examine from a pool of “nonprofit, non-seminary, four-year institutions that have more than 1,000 students, are at least moderately selective and are within 100 miles of Washington.” If the schools are public or publicly funded and have a two-tiered system for women and male applicants, “that would be illegal,” a commission spokeswoman explained.

Some of the college administrators aren’t so adept at covering their tracks. For example, the dean of admissions at the University of Richmond confides: “It’s always going to be an issue because there are not enough men in the pipeline.” So they need a little “help,” one supposes, so that “enough” men arrive on campus. Others try to obscure the issue in a haze of verbiage, parroting the language of applicable Supreme Court cases that have held that, for example, admissions officers can consider the applicant’s race as one of many factors:

According to higher-education leaders, investigators will be hard-pressed to find a college, public or private, that is intentionally favoring one sex over the other. Most of the region’s selective colleges practice “holistic” admissions, a process that considers each applicant as an individual, and as a whole, rather than as a sum of grades, test scores and demographic traits, in the quest to build a diverse class.

“In terms of importance, an applicant’s gender is near the bottom of the list of factors considered,” said Tony Pals, spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in the District.

“Near the bottom” — but apparently still a factor.

This is noteworthy for several reasons. First, where are the Justice Department and so-called feminist groups? They apparently don’t much care if women are now on the short end of gender preferences. It’s all about “diversity,” you see. And second, one realizes how misplaced has been the hue and cry about anti-female discrimination in education. Apparently there is no civil-rights or other organization upset that men now make up only 40 percent of the college-admissions pool. Are they being discriminated against? Are their educational needs being ignored? We don’t know, and no one seems interested in finding out why.

As I and others have pointed out before, the commission is filling a gap in the civil-rights arena, asking questions others won’t. The results of the study should be illuminating.

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