by James A. Bacon
While college administrators across Virginia and the United States fixate on the racial/ethnic makeup of their institutions, there’s a large and growing gender gap. Young women dominate enrollment at most higher-ed institutions these days. Fewer young men are applying, and even when they do, they’re dropping out more frequently. Administrators don’t like male-female imbalances because students don’t like it — colleges are mating markets as much as they’re centers of learning — but no one seems to be doing much about it.
There is no simple explanation for the large and growing mismatch. There is likely the same kind of “pipeline” problem we see with minorities — fewer males are applying for college because fewer are graduating from high school with college-ready skills. Additionally, males also may be more prone to substance abuse and mental illness, syndromes that are highly disruptive to academic performance.
There’s another possible reason, one that appeals to conservatives who see higher-ed institutions as dens of ideological inequity. In a higher-ed world dominated by the ideology of interesectionality — heterosexual white males are the O- of human society, universal oppressors — young men, especially young white men, experience college as a hostile environment. There may be some merit to this view, but it is only part of a larger story. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
If you want a case study in why much of the public believes nothing emanating from the mainstream media, read The Washington Post’s latest smear job on the Virginia Military Institute. Staff muckraker Ian Shapira slams the Institute for the misogyny and sexual assault that he, like the Barnes & Thornburg report published in June, alleges to be pervasive there.
I shall delve into the particulars in a moment, but bear in mind a few key points. First, Shapira indicts an entire higher-ed institution on the basis of interviews with “more than a dozen women” who attend or attended VMI in the recent past and implies that their experience is typical. Second, he presents only their side of the story. Third, he does not quote a single woman who describes having had a positive experience at VMI, although there are many who would have gladly obliged. Fourth, he seeks to hold the VMI administration accountable for the fact that young adult males express misogynistic views — in other words, for the administration’s failure to function as thought police. Fifth, he omits statistical evidence showing that assault and rape are less prevalent at VMI than at other higher-ed institutions.
In short, Shapira’s article can be considered journalism only to the extent that he actually talked to some real people instead of making stuff up. His framing of a pre-determined narrative, his cherry picking of anecdotal evidence to support that narrative, and his exclusion of perspectives that would contradict his narrative (other than responses to specific allegations from VMI) can better be classified as propaganda. Continue reading
Kasey Meredith became VMI’s first Cadet Commander this year. Photo credit: AP
by James A. Bacon
Not only is the Virginia Military Institute a cauldron of racism, according to the recently published Barnes & Thornburg report, it is a bastion of sexism. As the executive summary puts it: “On gender, many respondents — including men — stated that VMI’s gender-equity issues are worse than its racial-equity issues.”
As evidence of the culture of sexism, the report cites from a survey in which 81 female cadets participated. Fourteen percent of those who responded reported having been sexually assaulted. Concludes the executive summary: “Sexual assault is prevalent at VMI yet it is inadequately addressed by the Institute.”
Here’s what Barnes & Thornburg never mentioned: According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are “sexually assaulted” while attending college nationally. According to the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, 25.9% of women undergraduates are subject to “nonconsensual sexual contact by force or inability to consent.”
In other words, using Barnes & Thornburg’s own metric, women are significantly safer at VMI than other four-year colleges. Continue reading