Britz op-ed piece raises questions about gender and admissions
A New York Times op-ed essay by Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jennifer Britz is sparking discussion in higher education circles and the media about one of the tough issues facing colleges, and college applicants, nationwide: the demographic reality that more women than men are applying to college.
Britz's essay, which ran in the March 23 edition of the Times, highlighted the fact that the importance of gender balance-one of many factors that colleges consider in shaping an incoming class-makes the admissions process all the more challenging. The essay emerged from "a confluence of the personal and professional," Britz says. She was writing as the parent of a daughter who had been wait-listed by a college despite strong qualifications, and also as the head of an admissions staff that finds itself inundated with applications from similarly talented girls.
The piece struck a chord. A number of other newspapers have published it, and Britz has received hundreds of e-mail messages from parents and high-school guidance counselors, many praising her for openly discussing a problem that educators have been tracking for years. "Your op-ed piece," wrote one, "may well end up being the catalyst in bringing the issue of the declining numbers of men in higher education fully into the sunshine."
That openness was one reason for writing the essay, says Britz, who has won praise for encouraging her peers to let the light into what she calls the "black box" of college admissions. "We shouldn't be afraid to be honest about difficult issues, from early decision, to test scores, to gender balance," says Britz. "I hope that my essay contributes to a national conversation about how we, as educators and parents, can do what's best for today's young men and women."
The College's Web site, www.kenyon.edu, has links to the op-ed essay as well as other information about admissions and gender, including statistics from Kenyon.