Over the Memorial Day weekend, many college administrators attended a conference about the absence of men on today's college campuses and expressed concern about the negative experiences and unprecedented challenges facing college men today.
The "2nd Conference on College Men" at the University of Pennsylvania featured sessions examining the implications of negative comments about men that are prevalent on college campuses and the sexist campus activism of participants in the nation's 500 college gender studies departments. The conference program, attended by about 100 professors and student affairs personnel, exposed some unpleasant facts: men are "overrepresented" in drug and alcohol abuse, violations of campus regulations, and acts of violence and sexual assault, and they are "underrepresented" in academic programs and campus leadership activities.
Over the past couple of decades, the male-female ratio on campuses has been changing dramatically. Women outnumber men by a 4-3 ratio on college campuses. Men currently make up only 43 percent of college graduates.
In short, many today acknowledge that there is a crisis of the disappearing educated male.
Some experts claim that the imbalance begins in the public schools, where recess and physical education are being cut. More active boys are at a disadvantage, they say, when there is no outlet for their energy and restlessness. In addition, Title IX programs have hurt men's athletics with the less profitable men's sports being cut (over 400 men's collegiate athletic teams have been cut since Title IX went into effect) in order to fund women's programs. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), "for every new women's athletic slot created between 1992 and 1997, 3.6 male athletes were dropped."
As more and more campuses institute distance education programs, we are learning that men typically are not drawn to such programs and either flunk out or drop out at a higher rate than women. We are also learning that men are told that it is not "cool" to study, make good grades or even to attend class and buy the textbook for a class. For many college males, "being manly" means tremendous external pressure to "not really work at anything; to just be cool and detached." Women, on the other hand, are encouraged to "be the best" and to excel in order to "make it" in the workplace. The end result is a disturbing imbalance in terms of numbers as well as performance of men in the university environment that is already carrying over into the job market where women are increasingly landing the top jobs and earning the big salaries.
According to USA Today, "currently 135 women receive bachelor's degrees for every 100 men." That imbalance, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Education, "is expected to widen in the coming years."
The negative implications are enormous. It will be harder for men to succeed, and the loss of educated men in the workplace will be incalculable. We are already seeing huge social gaps between educated women and the uneducated, immature and/or irresponsible men that constitute the marriage prospects available to them. That gap is showing up in the declining marriage rates as well as in the divorce rates. As Christina Hoff Sommers said in her book, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming our Young Men, the fact that "women are significantly more literate, significantly more educated than their male counterparts" is likely to create a "lot of social problems;" the lack of well-educated men does not "bode well" for anyone.
Is it any wonder that men are avoiding today's college campuses? Hostility toward men and masculinity begins in daycare and increases each year thereafter. Sexual harassment training and policies have created an uncertain environment, if not a hostile one, where men have to watch their every word and action lest it be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Some experts criticize a campus "worldview that sees things only in terms of oppressors and the oppressed." Typically, the few campus men's studies programs are designed to push an anti-masculinity agenda.
Researchers have put the problem on their agendas. Some feminists are claiming that "educated women have always made some people nervous." Some even claim the gap is a matter of men realizing that they can make a better living than women even without an education.
In an increasingly more technological society, some experts are calling for a male affirmative action plan. Already, savvy campuses increase the number of males by instituting majors attractive to men, instituting or reinstating sports teams that were dropped, and highlighting programs that might attract male students. Almost all campuses feature men in their public relations pictures, being careful to avoid pictures that exclusively feature female students. Some campuses are shortening the period of accepting women's applications, while lengthening the time that applications are accepted from men. Some rumors claim that acceptance standards are lowered for men as well. Still, some experts think that the trend cannot be reversed.
Actually, the solution is much simpler: create an environment starting in kindergarten that teaches children to respect masculine traits. To do otherwise is to discriminate against our sons and brothers.