A Vassar student, John Michael Rezes, has blogged about my Washington Post column, taking issue with my conclusion that Vassar and other private colleges are discriminating against female applicants. You can read my original column here and Mr. Rezes’ blog here. My key point is that private colleges, unlike public ones, have a little-known exemption from Title IX when it comes to admissions. And this exemption is allowing many private schools to discriminate against female applicants.
Admissions at public colleges and universities are subject to Title IX, and thus their acceptance rates reflect the reality that girls do better in high school. University of Michigan, for instance, accepts 35% of female applicants versus 30% of male applicants. Vassar, meanwhile, has a 34% acceptance rate for men versus 19% for women.
Anyway, a friend on Facebook urged me to reply to this students’ points. Here’s my response:
1. The fact that the men accepted to Vassar matriculate at a lower rate than the women actually bolsters my point. Men are favored in the admissions process at private colleges, which means they are going to be accepted to more schools. So of course their matriculation rate is going to be lower.
2. Mr. Rezes is right that I do not know the average SAT scores of male and female Vassar applicants. (It would be great though if Vassar chose to release sex-specific applicant data on SAT scores and high school GPAs. It would also be interesting to see data, broken down by sex, on current and just-graduated Vassar students—namely, the number of students expelled for academic reasons, students on academic probation, students on honor roll, students elected to Phi Beta Kappa, etc.) What I do know for certain that top public colleges such as UC Berkeley, Penn State, Michigan, and University of Virginia — where undergrad admissions are regulated by Title IX— accept women at significantly higher rates than men. The higher acceptance rates for women make perfect sense given that girls get better grades in school and are closing the gap in standardized tests. In fact, Mr. Rezes acknowledges that women applying to Vassar are better applicants than men: “I know that my chances of admittance were significantly higher than my female counterpart.”
3. Mr. Rezes accuses me of promoting my book. Well, I prefer to say I’m starting a conversation—one that is long, long overdue. But I don’t deny that I’m trying to gin up interest in the book and in my ideas. (By the way, have I mentioned that I have a book, DATE-ONOMICS, coming out August 25? Or that you can buy it here, here, here or here?)
4. Mr. Rezes accuses me of approaching this topic from a patriarchal viewpoint — in other words, he thinks I’m assuming that college men and women are all hetero or that they all want to get married. He’s wrong. The admissions officers at Vassar and other private colleges are making decisions based on what they perceive as the social preferences of top applicants. I’m calling them out for it.
All that said, I can’t get too mad at Mr Rezes. I wish all my critics tempered their criticism with a friendly disclaimer such as his:
“I in no way intend to diminish the wonderful research and work done by Jon Birger. All comments against Birger are opinion based, and are not intended to denounce his credibility. All qualms are due to my own ill-responses to comments about male Vassar grads. I, in all sincerity, am just a Vassar man with a poison pen, who got his feelings hurt, who cannot keep his mouth shut. I also believe that his new book will be a very interesting read, and I highly respect his impassioned take on this topic.”