The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Turning the tables

In 1984, male students outnumbered female students at Marquette 11-to-9. Twenty years later, the two groups have switched roles.

This fall, women comprised 54.9 percent of undergraduate students on campus, according to numbers provided by the Office of the Registrar. The number has been steady over the last few years but is up from 1994, when women were 51.5 percent of students, and far up from 1984, when women were 45.9 percent of students.

The trend of female students outnumbering male students has continued at other universities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics' 2004 Trends in Educational Equity of Girls & Women report, 56 percent of college students are women, up from 42 percent in 1970.

Experts have many opinions as to how the trend started.

"Women moved in a direction of greater gender equity," said Carla Hay, an associate professor of history who has studied gender equity in academics. She cited Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibited sex discrimination in federally funded programs, for helping women gain a foothold in universities.

Others agree women have made progress in obtaining post-secondary education, but men have failed to advance themselves as well as women have.

"It's not that men are doing worse, it's that women have made all the educational progress," said Tom Mortensen, an independent higher education policy analyst and a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.

Mortensen said he was concerned men would fall further behind in obtaining education.

"What I think we're failing to do is look at differences in learning styles between boys and girls," Mortensen said. Because males develop language and reading skills more slowly than females, they are more likely to fall behind in elementary school, he said.

"Every mother on this planet knows their son is different from their daughter," yet boys and girls are taught the same way, Mortensen said.

Because of the problems in elementary school, Mortensen said he believes the gender gap is unlikely to close anytime soon.

"It absolutely will get worse before it gets better," he said.

But even if outnumbered in class, males get more attention from professors and answer more questions in class than females, according to Sharon Chubbuck, an assistant professor in the School of Education.

The universities haven't expressed a need to recruit more men.

"We want to maintain the gender balance we have currently," said Roby Blust, dean of undergraduate admissions.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, where women are about 53 percent of undergraduate students, isn't concerned with a gender imbalance either.

"It hasn't reached a point where we've needed to take corrective action," said John Lucas, spokesman for UW-Madison.

Nor are students concerned with a gender gap.

"I barely notice it," said Angela Schnell, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. She said she has been in classes dominated by one gender, but it "doesn't disrupt my learning experience."

Claire Stockhausen, a freshman in the College of Health Sciences, doesn't mind the imbalance. However, in a Spanish class dominated by females, she said she noticed the professor preferred the males in the class, "even though they don't know anything," she said.

Peter Hartmann, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said the imbalance was not a big deal and he has "never felt ostracized" in any female-dominated classes.

However, if the imbalance becomes worse, one possible remedy is affirmative action, which would ensure men would be represented in better numbers, Mortensen said. Men could be held to a lower admissions standard than women to ensure the quota.

Mortensen said he opposed using affirmative action because doing so would lower admissions standards for males.

Blust said even if the gender gap increases, the university would keep the same admissions policies.

"But we would try to encourage more male students to apply," Blust said.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Nov. 30, 2004.

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