College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

News Flash: Investigation into College Admissions Bias Not Quite Dead

By Richard Whitmire — April 07, 2011 1 min read
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Tomorrow, members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will consider a motion to revive the recently abandoned attempt to investigate college admissions bias against women (to draw in more men, even if they are less qualified).

This issue contains some odd politics. On one hand, young men certainly need the boost and colleges have valid worries when a campus population rises above 60 percent female. On the other hand, these admissions preferences mask the very real problem of K-12 schools failing to prepare and motivate boys for college work.

Want to see your government at work? Show up at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at the commission’s headquarters, 624 9th St NW, Washington, D.C., 20425 (near the Metro Center and Gallery Place stops) and you’ll hear the debate.

From the motion to revive the investigation:

Multiple news reports indicate that some colleges and universities, both public and private, have what they regard as "too many" women applicants and are therefore discriminating in favor of men. Perhaps the most attention-getting piece on this topic was a 2006 New York Times op-ed by Jennifer- Delahunty-Britz, an admissions officer at Kenyon College, in which she admitted that her office often granted preferences to men. Some admissions insiders wrote in response to Delahunty-Britz's piece that these preferences were quite common - what was shocking was only Delahunty-Britz's candor in airing this information publicly.1 Indeed, a number of colleges besides Kenyon have openly admitted to discriminating against women - including the University of Richmond and the College of William and Mary.
Despite the frequency of these media accounts, there have been no systematic attempts to study the extent of such discrimination. Some claim that the reluctance to study the issue stems from the quirks of interest group politics.5 While we cannot say for sure if this analysis is correct, we can say confidently that the Commission ought to be well-positioned to stand above the political fray--even if no-one else is-- and get at the truth of the matter.

The opinions expressed in Why Boys Fail are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.