I detest the idea of giving preference to men to correct the imbalance, so I was glad to see this from Glenn Reynolds, saying that schools ought to look at themselves and ask: What are we doing to make men feel that they don't belong here?
There seems little doubt that universities have become less male-friendly in recent decades, to the point of being downright unfriendly in many cases. The kind of statements that are routinely made about males and masculinity in classrooms and hallways would get professors fired if they were made about blacks, gays, or many other groups.It's assumed that males can take it, and that it's not the same thing when you're knocking the traditionally advantaged group. But whether you think that's true or not, if the gender imbalance is the school's own problem, it's bad strategy. So you could have a lot of sensitivity training and open men's centers on campus and so on. That will be extremely hard to do well. We're used to reaching out to those we've seen as disadvantaged. It will seem awkward and insincere to reach out to males in the same way. But at the very least, we can commit ourselves to ending the hostility to males, which has always been inappropriate anyway.
Reynolds entertains the notion that the real problem might be that too many women pursue higher education. Maybe too many people go to college, but more men are able to opt out because they can find better jobs without college than women can. Arguably, both males and females are behaving rationally, under the circumstances. Some of these circumstances are caused by discrimination against women in the traditional workplace. Credentialing is more important for us. Some of it is the physical difference between women and men, on the average, which makes it harder for us to get or want jobs requiring physical strength. But I'm sure some of it has to do with different preferences: more women are interested in studying and in pursuing the kind of work -- like law -- that in many ways resembles studying.
If that is so, why not let things take their natural course? Would it be a problem if, some day, 80% of law students were women? It would certainly be a social problem at the schools for many students, and the schools would suffer if students chose to go elsewhere to avoid skewing. Maybe a real tipping point would be reached if the ratio got as far off as 60/40. There's also the social problem outside of schools, as highly educated women have difficulty finding suitable partners.
We seem to be headed inexorably into affirmative action for men, which will go on with no end in sight.
UPDATE: Cathy Young, who's participating in the comments here, has a very informative post.