The Collegiate War on Men

For two centuries after the founding of Harvard College in 1636, there was grotesque gender discrimination in American colleges and universities: there were no female students. Even in 1950, there were far more than two men on American campuses for every woman. But by the late twentieth century female enrollment had surged,  coinciding with the women’s liberation movement and drastically increased female participation in the labor force. By 1979, for the first time, there were more female than male students on campus. But the trend did not stop when gender equality was achieved. Fast forward 44 years, and today there are roughly seven female students for every five males—40 percent more women than men on college campuses.

Why? Part of the reason may seem quite legitimate: girls on average do somewhat better in high school than boys, and are less likely to dropout, or become imprisoned or hooked on drugs. But at a lot of schools, especially the most elite East Coast schools, men today seem to be grudgingly viewed as necessary evils, cash cows whose parental donations and gifts help pay the bills. Men are a necessary annoyance.

Well over a decade ago federal government officials began sternly warning college administrators about the dangers of predatory males who rape girls, leading to what two writers—KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor—once appropriately called the “campus rape frenzy.” This led to one of the greatest threats to the principles of due process existing in Anglo-Saxon law since at least the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, specifically the heinous U.S. Department of Education’s Dear Colleague Letter in 2011—a policy that has led to a vast new campus-based judiciary system of Star Chamber justice. Campuses scurried to adopt rules typically denying males of some of the most elementary protections that the accused face in the in the formal legal system, such as high standards of evidentiary proof (“beyond a reasonable doubt”), the right to cross-examine witnesses, an adjudication process that meticulously separates the accusers (the prosecution) from those rendering final judgement (the judges and juries), a right to have legal counsel present, and more. The Trump administration backed away from this Obama-era approach to justice, which was quickly reinstated by a fashionably woke Department of Education under the Biden administration that thinks nothing of flaunting constitutional separation of powers to issue fatwas on the progressive cause du jour, perhaps most notably with student loan forgiveness.

To further put these terribly uncouth collegiate males (including professors and administrators) in place, the leadership of progressive colleges increasingly has been moved into female hands. Let’s take the eight Ivy League schools plus their high tech neighboring equal, M.I.T., that many view as the exemplars of quality American higher education. Seven of the nine schools have female presidents. The two with men in charge, Yale and Princeton, probably won’t for long, as their presidents are both men in their sixties with over a decade of service—meaning their presidential career is almost certainly winding down. It is entirely possible that in three years or so the entire group of nine schools will be headed by women.

To be sure, when leaving the coastal centers of collegiate wokedom and moving west into flyover country (the 30 plus states constituting America’s heartland), the insistence on female leadership is far less intense. I looked at the 14 mostly public schools in the Big Ten athletic conference as it is currently configured, schools stretching from the East Coast like Rutgers and Maryland, on through the industrial Midwest, and to some located west of the Mississippi River such as Iowa and Nebraska. Nine of the presidents are men. The woke imperative of judging people by the color of their skin and their sexual identification appears to be far less intense as one leaves coastal America.

But even in the Midwest, there is a surge in female collegiate power, manifested in massive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracies that have grown exponentially in both numbers and power in recent years. Jennifer Kabbany of The College Fix, drawing on research done by retired professor Mark Perry, recently reported on the explosion of DEI apparatchiks at Ohio State University. The number of employees more than doubled to 189(!) in the five years from 2018 to 2023, costing over $20 million annually in salary and benefits alone—several hundred dollars per OSU student. Of the top ten most highly paid Ohio State DEI administrators cited (all making a measly minimum of $163,000 a year), nine were female, and the only male was black—do white males need not apply? The prevailing campus view seems to be: “American society has been badly messed up by white males over history, so we are doing our best to exclude or at least minimize them from future leadership at our schools.” (A message still not accepted generally in either major political party or the American public). If a DEI bureaucracy of today’s mentality ruled America earlier as a fourth branch of government, it might have vetoed the presidencies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, or Ronald Reagan for various alleged transgressions ranging from being slaveowners to merely being moderately randy white males.

In moments like these, I am reminded of the wisdom of William Buckley’s quip: “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”


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  • Richard Vedder

    Richard Vedder is Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus at Ohio University, a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, and a board member of the National Association of Scholars.

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5 thoughts on “The Collegiate War on Men

  1. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. Negative life logic: the more times one is fired is usually a good sign because it indicates independence, adaptability, and growth. The same logic probably applies to college. The sooner you move away from it the better. And that goes for leadership, students, employees, you name it.

  2. The demands of the times required division of labor. Abigail Adams was asked about voting and advanced education. She replied, I don’t have enough time now to do what I must do.
    Now, it is pure prejudice. Today, white men are by far the most discrimination category that exists.

  3. What’s more relevant is that something like 90% of K-12 teachers are female, an increasing percentage of principals & superintendents are female. One then goes to higher education where the overwhelming percentage of the staff/admin whom a student will have face-to-face encounters with are female, particularly in the important fields such as housing & health.

    Other than the director, I was the last non-minority, non-gay, non-female professional employee in what was then Res Ed (now Res Life) at UMass — dormitory supervision — and I was laid off because of budget cuts. That’s not uncommon….

    Then let’s look at grad schools. And then the junior faculty. And then all of the faculty who have been hired in the past 20 years.

    And then we look a Deans and all of the administration above them, all of the DEI largess, and then the Vice Presidents for everything, and then all of their assistants and subordinates.

    The genders of a handful of college presidents is interesting, but a more telling figure is that once-all-male Amherst College wen majority female in the late ’90s and has struggled to remain just half male since then. Higher education has gone from nearly 60% male 45 years ago to almost 60% female today.

    Christina Hoff Sommers wrote _The War Against Boys_ 30 years ago and things are even worse now…

  4. DEI provides gainful employment for people who otherwise would not be qualified for any position more involved than being a shift supervisor at a local fast food restaurant. All you have to do is be sexist and racist and you get hired.

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