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Though the United States has come a long way in women’s rights in the past 40 years, universities are putting women at a disadvantage once again. While at one time few women were given the opportunity to go to college, now the percentage of women in the applicant pool has sky-rocketed to somewhere between 60 percent and two-thirds. The downside of this is that now admissions officers are valuing male applicants more favorably. Such subtle discrimination deteriorates both educational rights and quality of education nationally, eventually bringing down the social standard for equality.
Increasing social freedoms are not the only reason the number of female applicants has increased. Due to the echo effect of the baby boom and the availability of the Internet to research universities further from home, the college admission process has become hyper-competitive over the past couple of decades for both male and female applicants. However, formerly male-dominated universities like Harvard now have more female undergraduates than male and are attempting to compensate.
According to a New York Times article by Jennifer Delahunty Britz, a college admissions officer, even Kenyon College in Ohio, which was founded as a men’s college in 1969, now has a 55 percent female applicant pool.
Britz used the article to apologize to girls who applied to college and were rejected due to the greater number of prospective female students. She went on to state that while a female applicant who has incredible extra-curricular activities, leadership, and community service experience but average test scores and grade point average was debated over extensively in the admissions process, a male applicant with similar qualifications would be accepted almost immediately.
Some people argue that boys are less likely to do well in school and go to college when they are forced to endure feminist propaganda (in the form of books by or about women that focus on sexual discrimination) and tests that give women the advantage by emphasizing writing and verbal skills. Even if this were true, depriving women of a college education does not balance the scale. Withholding some women from college will not make up for the fact that men do not have as strong verbal skills as women.
It is unreasonable for colleges to deprive a girl who worked harder in advanced placement classes of a slot in her dream college just because there are too many other girls applying. It is even more backwards to then give that spot to a boy with weaker potential just to meet a quota. This kind of preferential treatment does not do justice to either girls or boys who work hard to get into college. While boys will be given the impression that they have it easy in getting spots in universities, girls will come to assume that hard work does not pay off.
Women are still at a disadvantage in larger society. When comparing two equally qualified individuals, the male is likely to get a better salary than the female to this day—women were paid only 76 percent of what males were paid in 2002. In her article “Girls Against Boys?” in The Nation, Katha Pollitt writes, “… women need [educational] credentials more than men.”
So why are universities so intent on having an equal number of men and women in their classes? Accepting men into universities when they are not as well qualified as their female peers will not create an equal learning environment. Instead, colleges should accept applicants based strictly on their qualifications, so that all students will have an equal chance at earning degrees and getting the jobs that they deserve.
Shamita Jayakumar and Supriya Limaye are a junior and senior respectively in Saratoga High School, Calif.