June 22, 2011

IT'S JUST GOOD BUSINESS:

The Quotas Everyone Ignores: Why universities are quietly favoring white males once again. (ANDREW FERGUSON, 3/28/11, Weekly Standard)

Among college admissions professionals, it has been a barely concealed secret for several years that such an effort is underway at many, if not most, selective schools. The secret became public in 2006 when the admissions dean at Kenyon College, Jennifer Delahunty Britz, published an op-ed in the New York Times. Never underestimate the anger of a parent whose kid didn’t get into the right school. Britz’s daughter had just been wait-listed at a college that mom assumed she would glide into, and mom, being in the business herself, said she knew why.

“The fat acceptance envelope is simply more elusive for today’s accomplished young women,” Britz wrote. She offered an anecdote from her own experience, about a recent applicant to Kenyon. The girl was admirable in every respect but for her middling SAT scores. Britz finally decided to admit her, but it was a close thing. The kid should have been born a boy.

“Had she been a male applicant,” Britz wrote, “there would have been little, if any, hesitation to admit.” The threshold for boys is lower than for girls, not only at Kenyon but at other schools too. Boys, she explained simply, are “more valued applicants.”

Britz’s op-ed loosed a flurry of journalism—editors never tire of college admissions stories—much of it summarized the following year in an excellent exposé by U.S. News and World Report’s Alex Kingsbury. A raft of prominent schools, including Pomona, Tufts, the College of William and Mary, and Boston College, were accepting boys at a far higher rate than female applicants—boys with lower test scores and lower grade point averages than their female rivals. William and Mary, for instance, accepted 40 percent of the boys who applied in 2006 and only 26 percent of the girls.

Since the early 1980s, when a brief period of parity was reached after generations of male dominance, more girls than boys have applied to college each year; in 2011, 60 percent of college applicants will be women. Girls—sorry, fellas—are by any objective measure more attractive applicants than boys, with higher average GPAs and test scores. They have fewer behavioral problems. They write better application essays. They have a wider range of extracurricular interests. They clean up better for interviews.

On any fairly balanced scale, the acceptance rate for women at selective colleges should be far higher than for men. Instead it’s the other way around. The reason is “affirmative action,” sometimes called preferences, sometimes called quotas—though never publicly. Admissions deans like Britz have placed a thumb on the scale.

This much is generally accepted practice among college admissions deans in the upper tiers of American higher education. But why? If girls are better suited to college, why not let them enter the better colleges at rates equal to their achievements?

Here is where the Legend of 60-40 enters in. Sixty-forty is the ratio of women to men at which, according to admissions lore, the “atmosphere” of a campus changes irreversibly and the school’s reputation passes a point of no return. It becomes known as a “girls’ school” and before you know it .  .  . there goes the neighborhood.

“Once you become decidedly female,” Britz wrote in her op-ed, “fewer males and, as it turns out, fewer females find your campus attractive.” Or worse, it becomes attractive to the wrong kind of male. Hubba hubba, in other words. Predation can be a problem. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by the indispensable education writer Richard Whitmire offered anecdotes from the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. JMU refuses to institute gender quotas and as a result is now more than 60 percent female. “What can be seen [on campus] so far is not encouraging,” Whitmire wrote. “Stark gender imbalances appear to act as an accelerant on the hook-up culture”—a reference to the Bonobo-like mating patterns that have lately enlivened social life among America’s budding scholars.

For this reason, the admissions dean of the College of William and Mary has been unapologetic about that thumb of his, which he has firmly planted on the boy side of the scale. “We are, after all, the College of William and Mary,” he has often said, “not the College of Mary and Mary.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 22, 2011 5:59 AM
  
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