Is gender neutral admissions the way of the future? Not so fast…
There’s an interesting letter to the editor today in the pages of “The Brown Daily Herald,” the newspaper of Brown University. The letter, written by Jon Birger, is entitled “Brown should go gender-blind in admission” and the piece is indeed well-reasoned. Based on the title, we should also add that perhaps Brown — and all highly selective colleges because Brown is surely not alone — should go need-blind before they go gender-blind being as no school, despite claims to the contrary, is truly need-blind.
And why does Birger believe Brown should go gender-blind? As he writes, “I am ‘skeptical’ of the argument put forth by Dean of Admission Logan Powell holding that Brown’s higher acceptance rate for male applicants is a function of its need to enroll students interested in physical science — not a function of Brown putting a premium on gender balance and thus treating women and men unequally in the admission process.” But he doesn’t just make an argument. He backs it up with data.
He writes, “I would like to provide some context for my skepticism. As the Herald article points out, undergraduate admission processes at private colleges such as Brown are exempt from Title IX. Admission to state colleges and universities is regulated by Title IX, though, and this makes for some useful comparisons. Leading public universities such as the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Virginia and the University of California at Los Angeles also have large, well-regarded programs in science, math and engineering, yet these schools still have higher acceptance rates for women than men. At Berkeley, the acceptance rate is 18 percent for women and 15 percent for men, according to U.S. Department of Education data. At Virginia, it’s 31 percent for women and 29 percent for men. UCLA: 18 percent for women versus 16 percent for men. This makes sense, as research shows that high school girls generally outperform high school boys academically.”
“I should also point out that — like Brown — Berkeley, UVA and UCLA all received more applications from women than from men in 2015. UCLA actually received 6,000 more applications from women. Yet because Title IX requires UCLA to have sex-blind admission, the greater number of female applicants did not prompt UCLA’s admission office to accept female applicants at a lower rate.”
It would be mighty difficult for schools like Brown to go gender-blind though. Think about it. Teachers and school counselors would be prohibited from writing “his” or “her,” “he” or “she” in letters of recommendation. Imagine the slip-ups, clouding the process. Students would be barred from doing the same in their Personal Statement and many Brown supplemental essays. More potential for slip-ups! Their names would have to be hidden from the application. Maybe they’d be assigned pseudonyms? It worked out for Dartmouth’s Dr. Seuss, although he came up with his pseudonym years after his college days. So while Birger’s arguments seem well-founded, we just don’t get how the logistics would work.