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Washington Times

 

Big Man Shortage On Campus

June 15, 2010

By Charlotte Allen

It’s well-known that there’s a severe gender imbalance in undergraduate college populations: About 57 percent of undergrads these days are female and just 43 percent male, the culmination of a trend in which significantly fewer young men than young women either graduate from high school or enroll in college.

It’s also well-known - at least among college admissions officers - that many private institutions have tried to close the gender gap by quietly relaxing admissions standards for males, essentially practicing affirmative action for young men. What they’re doing is perfectly legal, even under Title IX, the 1972 federal law that bans sex discrimination by institutions of higher learning receiving federal funds. Title IX contains an exemption that specifically allows private colleges that aren’t professional or technical institutions to prefer one sex over the other in undergraduate admissions. Militant feminists and principled opponents of affirmative action might complain about the discrimination against women that Title IX permits, but for many second- and third-tier liberal arts colleges lacking male educational magnets such as engineering and business programs, the exemption may be a lifesaver, preventing those smaller and less prestigious schools from turning into de facto women’s colleges that few young people of either sex might want to attend.

Now, however, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to turn over this rock carefully set in place by admissions committees. The commission launched an investigation in the fall into the extent of male preferences in admissions decisions at 19 institutions of higher learning. These include public universities (where such preferences are illegal under Title IX); elite private institutions such as Georgetown and Johns Hopkins; smaller liberal arts schools (Gettysburg College, with 2,600 undergraduates, is on the list); religious schools (the University of Richmond and Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.); and historically black Virginia Union University, also in Richmond. On May 14, the commission’s general counsel, David P. Blackwood, announced that four of the 19 schools - Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Gettysburg and Messiah - had raised legal issues concerning compliance with the commission’s subpoenas and that Virginia Union, while responding politely, had not complied in any way. Mr. Blackwood said the commission might have to ask the Justice Department for help in obtaining admissions data from Virginia Union.

The commission’s investigation has triggered a variety of ideological conflicts and created some unusual ideological allies - and it ultimately may provide a forum for rethinking Title IX itself. Critics charge that the U.S. Education Department has interpreted the 1972 law so as to make it illegal for colleges to attract males by more palatable means such as men’s sports teams, forcing them to resort to outright sex discrimination in admissions.

On one side of the current conflict are the opponents of affirmative action for any group, whether based on sex, ethnicity or religion. Typically, such opponents compare efforts to limit the number of women in a college population to the quotas for Jews that once prevailed in the Ivy League and the de facto quotas disfavoring high-achieving Asians that typically have arisen as a consequence of “diversity” measures favoring blacks and Hispanics. Squarely in the anti-affirmative-action camp is the instigator of the Civil Rights Commission’s admissions probe, Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego appointed to the commission by the Senate in 2007 and one of the backers of Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot measure that outlawed racial and other preferences by public institutions in California. “The exemption in Title IX was created to protect single-sex schools - to allow men’s schools to remain men’s schools and women’s schools to remain women’s schools,” Ms. Heriot said in a telephone interview. “The admissions policies of coeducational schools weren’t covered.”

Original Source: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jun/15/big-man-shortage-on-campus/

 

 
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