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Affirmative Action for Men? Colleges Accused of Gender Bias

by Ronald Bailey

NPR's "Morning Edition" aired a story in which the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is beginning an investigation into claims that colleges are favoring the admission of less qualified males over more qualified women.

Today women earn about 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees. The concern is that some colleges are so worried about becoming overwhelmingly female that they are discriminating against qualified women and choosing less qualifed males.

The story quotes an analyst who suggests that male students do worse academically when they attend schools whose student bodies are composed of more than two-thirds women. One Commission member notes that any such admissions policy would violate Title 9 which prohibits gender discrimination in collegeeducation programs.

Is such discrmination happening? A few years back, a friend who teaches in a graduate political science department at a prominent university told me that the women who applied to his school's program were so much more qualified than the male applicants that if all applicants were selected solely on the basis of academic merit, no men would be admitted to the program. That would be fine with my friend except for the fact that highly qualified women will not attend a program that is all female. Thus this program actually engaged in what amounts to affirmative action for males in order to attract and keep highly qualified female students.

One further observation: If it's OK to discriminate in order to enhance racial and ethnic diversity, why is it wrong to discriminate in order to enhance gender diversity?


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