What is the effect of portraying college life as a catfight among straight women? In whose interest is it to describe the relationship among straight college women as essentially competitive and perhaps to blame for bad behavior on the part of college men?

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Those are two questions Historiann asks in this excellent post about yesterday’s NYT article, The New Math on Campus. The point of article in my view is to help sell the idea of making achieving gender balance at colleges a goal of the admissions process. There are certainly good arguments to be made in favor of gender balance as a general matter. A lack of gender balance in many quarters of the legal profession is deeply problematic. But not because law is supposed to be some kind of dating service. If men are not applying to or gaining admission to colleges proportionate to their population, hard questions should be asked, just as they should when women are not succeeding in any given environment.

Here are a couple of data points the NYT missed:

In 2008 despite the higher number of female applicants, 68 more men than women were offered a place in the class of 2012 – 9.8 percent of men : and just 7.5 percent of women : were accepted by Yale.

In Fall 2008 the College of William and Mary admitted 43 percent of its male applicants and 29 percent of female applicants.


At Harvard University, for example, the pool of more than 22,000 applicants has remained equally divided between men and women, meaning that both sexes are admitted at an equal:if dauntingly low:9 percent. Harvard:again, a relative newcomer to coeducation:has seen its percentage of female undergraduates increase steadily over the past decade from 46 percent in 1997 to 49 percent in 2006. Princeton, Stanford, Rice, Duke, and Yale Universities are in the same boat; ditto for the elite liberal arts colleges such as Amherst, Williams, and Middlebury.

–Ann Bartow

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