Kenyon Admissions Process Favors Men
Published: Thursday, September 29, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
"The only way a college can justify selecting someone with lesser academic skills is if they meet a desired goal," Gilligan said. "How important is gender to Kenyon College? We have to sit back and ask ourselves."
"Gender balance matters for the simple reason that diversity enhances the classroom experience," Delahunty said.
But many classes at Kenyon are surprisingly gender imbalanced. The statistics are particularly skewed in the majors men and women choose to pursue.
In April, The Daily Beast website published a list of the most useless undergraduate degrees. They found the 20 degrees that feed to careers with the lowest median starting and mid-career salaries and the worst projected number of jobs in the next decade.
Of Kenyon's five most popular majors, two made the list: psychology and English. At Kenyon, more than twice as many women pursue those majors than men.
In July, The Huffington Post published a list of the best-paying college majors. Of Kenyon's top five, only economics landed a spot. In 2009, 24 Kenyon men graduated with an economics degree. Only 11 women did the same.
"The bottom line is that guys are still in charge," Gilligan said. Only three percent of Fortune 500 CEOs (chief executive officers) are women.
Seventy-six percent of congressmen are men. And across all sectors, men out-earn their female counterparts.
"Guys are an endangered species who run the place," Gilligan said.
At Kenyon, only 12 women serve on the 42-person Board of Trustees, and 42 percent of the full-time faculty is female, even though women today earn 60 percent of all masters' degrees.
These numbers will likely change in the coming decades if fewer and fewer men pursue higher education. "How long can men hold onto the power in our culture without having a pool of educated young men?" Gilligan said. "How can we reassert ourselves in academic circles without wanting to own everything?"
The answer may lie with men like Julian Trancredi '12, one of the founders of Men of Kenyon. The group is aimed at helping men form a positive sense of what it means to be a man.
"A lot of times when you hear the world ‘man' mentioned at this school it's in a negative sense," he said. "Because gender is not created in a vacuum, people of all genders need to get together to discuss these issues. In the small bubble that is Kenyon, there is more conversation about being a woman than being a man."
The Men of Kenyon are working to balance that dialogue, as is the College, which last year established a faculty committee to investigate men's issues.
Gilligan, who serves on the committee, said that one possible long-term solution to shrinking male interest in higher education is to develop a program like the Kenyon Academic Partnership that would establish classes in high schools aimed at men and focused on men's issues.
"It wouldn't just be about promoting academic sophistication," Gilligan said, "but connecting young men with good ideas." Until then, he said, "we might have to make these [admissions] adjustments until guys reach a point where they balance it out themselves."
Kenyon still receives a strong cache of qualified male applicants, according to Delahunty.
"I wrote that article because I was mad on a Sunday," she said of her op-ed, which sparked a national debate. "I didn't know I was stepping on a sociological landmine." Regardless of the societal trend, she remains optimistic that Kenyon will continue to serve talented men and women.
Last year, Gilligan audited a Kenyon class, his first in a 13-year career. "It reminded me of why you go to college," he said. "It's because you want to learn together, as a group. I felt like a better person after taking that class. And that's the liberal arts experience — becoming a better person."