Quotas Limiting Male Science Enrollment: The New Liberal War on Science

by Hans Bader on July 10, 2012 · 21 comments

in Economy, Employment, Legal, Personal Liberty

Quotas limiting the number of male students in science may be imposed by the Education Department in 2013. The White House has promised that “new guidelines will also be issued to grant-receiving universities and colleges” spelling out “Title IX rules in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.” These guidelines will likely echo existing Title IX guidelines that restrict men’s percentage of intercollegiate athletes to their percentage in overall student bodies, thus reducing the overall number of intercollegiate athletes. (Under the three-part Title IX test created by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, where I used to work, colleges are allowed to temporarily comply by increasing the number of female athletes rather than cutting the number of male athletes, but the only viable permanent way to comply with its rule is to restrict men’s participation relative to women’s participation, reducing overall participation.) Thus, as Charlotte Allen notes, the Obama administration’s guidelines are likely to lead to “science quotas” based on gender.

Earlier, writing in Newsweek, President Obama celebrated the fact that 25 percent fewer men than women graduate from college, calling it a “great accomplishment” for America. Ironically, he lamented the fact that a smaller gender disparity — 17 percent fewer women attending college than men — had once existed before Title IX was implemented. To Obama, gender disparities are only bad when they disfavor women. Under his strange idea of equality, equality means men losing out to women.

Obama hinted that Title IX quotas would soon come to engineering and techology, saying that “Title IX isn’t just about sports,” but also about “inequality in math and science education” and “a much broader range of fields, including engineering and technology. I’ve said that women will shape the destiny of this country, and I mean it.”

Christina Hoff Sommers wrote earlier about this looming liberal war on science. Based on a campaign promise Obama made to feminist groups in October 2008, Sommers foresaw the Obama Administration moving to artificially cap male enrollment in math and science classes to achieve gender proportionality — the way that Title IX currently caps male participation in intercollegiate athletics. The result could be a substantial reduction in the number of scientists graduating from America’s colleges and universities.

Critics have long argued that the Title IX cap on men’s athletic participation is in tension with the Supreme Court’s warnings against proportional representation. In a ruling by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Supreme Court said that it is “completely unrealistic” to argue that women and minorities should be represented in each field or activity “in lockstep proportion to their representation in the local population.” (See Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989)). In an earlier ruling, Justice O’Connor noted that it is “unrealistic to assume that unlawful discrimination is the sole cause of people failing to gravitate to jobs and employers in accord with the laws of chance.” (See Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust Co. (1988).)

But the Title IX athletics regulation mandates proportional representation. It contains three alternatives for compliance, but two of them are illusory in the long run. The first way (and only permanent way) to comply is to adopt a quota that artificially caps male participation. The second and third ways, which are only short-term fixes, involve continuous expansion of participation by, or satisfaction of all desire to compete by, the “underrepresented” sex. In a world of finite resources, these latter two ways can only work for a short period of time. In light of this fact, courts have rejected lawsuits by men’s teams cut by colleges to achieve proportionality (that is, quotas), concluding that such quotas are required by Title IX, which thus overrides any rights the men’s teams might otherwise enjoy.  See, e.g., Miami University Wrestling Club v. Miami University, 302 F.3d 608 (6th Cir. 2002).

I used to work at the agency, the Office for Civil Rights, which administers that regulation, and I think that it would be a grave mistake to apply its standards, which were designed for allocating resources among all-male and all-female sports teams, to the very different context of math and science classes, which are coed. It is one thing to apply gender-based proportionality rules to single-sex teams, which are already themselves intrinsically gender-based. It is quite another to apply them to classes in science and math that are open to all students, regardless of gender, and are supposed to be gender-blind, not gender-specific or gender-based. Doing so is simply unconstitutional.

Courts have generally forbidden state colleges to engage in gender-balancing in areas other than intercollegiate athletics. For example, a federal judge struck down the University of Georgia’s use of gender in admissions to promote gender balance, ruling it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. See Johnson v. Board of Regents of the University of Georgia, 106 F. Supp.2d 1362 (S.D. Ga 2000).  An attempt by the Obama Education Department to impose gender quotas in math and scientific fields would be equally unconstitutional.  See Lamprecht v. FCC, 958 F.2d 382 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (FCC’s gender preferences for women violated the equal-protection component of the Fifth Amendment, despite FCC’s appeal to “diversity”); Back v. Carter, 933 F.Supp. 738 (N.D. Ind. 1996) (invalidating gender-balance requirement for government board).

The fact that fewer women than men major in science and engineering is the result of their own voluntary choices, not sexism or sex discrimination by schools, notes researcher John Rosenberg, the proud father of a daughter who got a Ph.D. from CalTech. My daughter is bright, and I’d be happy if she got a graduate degree in engineering (or became a physicist, like her grandfather), but I can’t force her to do that if she doesn’t want to, and a college shouldn’t be deemed liable for sex discrimination against women if women like her don’t want to study engineering.

Gender disparities in a major are not the product of sexism, but rather the differing preferences of men and women. The fact that engineering departments are filled mostly with men does not mean they discriminate against women anymore than the fact that English departments are filled mostly with women proves that English departments discriminate against men. The arts and humanities have well over 60 percent female students, yet no one seems to view that gender disparity as a sign of sexism against men. Deep down, the Obama administration knows this, since it is planning to impose its gender-proportionality rules only on the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), not other fields that have similarly large gender disparities in the opposite direction.

Many women are quite capable of mastering high-level math and science, but simply don’t find working in such a field all that interesting. As Dr. Sommers notes, many “colleges already practice affirmative action for women in science,” rather than discriminating against them. Susan Pinker, a clinical psychologist, chronicled cases of women who “abandoned successful careers in science and engineering to work in fields like architecture, law and education,” because they wanted jobs that involved more interaction with people, “not because they had faced discrimination in science.” Far from being discouraged by society from pursuing a career in math or science, these women had been strongly encouraged to pursue such a  a career: “Once they showed aptitude for math or physical science, there was an assumption that they’d pursue it as a career even if they had other interests or aspirations. And because these women went along with the program and were perceived by parents and teachers as torch bearers, it was so much more difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that the work made them unhappy.”

As Susan Pinker notes, “A mountain of published research stretching back a hundred years shows that women are far more likely than men to be deeply interested in organic subjects—people, plants and animals—than they are to be interested in things and inanimate systems, such as electrical engineering, or computer systems.”

Women are well-represented in scientific fields that involve lots of interaction with people. As The New York Times’ John Tierney noted, “Despite supposed obstacles like “unconscious bias” and a shortage of role models and mentors, women now constitute about half of medical students, 60 percent of biology majors, and 70 percent of psychology Ph.D.’s. They earn the majority of doctorates in both the life sciences and the social sciences.” By contrast, “They remain a minority in the physical sciences and engineering,” which deal more with inanimate objects rather than people.

These gender-based differences are not the product of discrimination, and manifest themselves at a very early age. As a book on the biology of male-female differences notes, “Girl babies in their cribs are especially inclined to stare at images of human faces, whereas infant boys are likely to find inanimate objects every bit as attractive”; “this difference persists into adulthood: when shown images of people as well as things, men tend to remember the things, and women tend to remember the people.”

To the extent that gender disparities result from the differing interests of men and women, they are not “discrimination” by an institution in which they occur. See EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 839 F.2d 302 (7th Cir. 1988).

These differences, of course, are statistical averages, and are not true of every individual. (My mother is a math major who is more interested in various kinds of abstractions than I am.) No girl should be denied the opportunity to study a STEM field based on her sex; but that does not mean that colleges should adopt a gender quota for female students in math and science. Since a college cannot force a woman to go into math or science, the only way for a college to satisfy a gender quota will be to cut the number of male math and science students, by turning male students away from their favorite subject.

The  Education Department already has the power to punish colleges for discrimination in math and science under Title IX, even without any new guidelines, since the Title IX statute bans discrimination based on sex (except in certain single-sex schools) in any educational field. Based on what the Obama campaign said in 2008, many had expected the Obama Education Department to exercise that power through lengthy investigations (“compliance reviews”) of college math and science programs (such as investigating gender disparities in male vs. female enrollment rates in science classes to determine whether or not they are not the result of discrimination). But to require gender quotas in math and science — as opposed to merely banning discrimination — the Education Department will have to first issue guidelines mandating them, since these quotas are a new substantive obligation for colleges, and cannot be imposed without such notice (even putting aside the fact that they are unconstitutional).

CTMaloney July 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Why can’t people accept genetic differences? I hope this proposed law get shot down by the courts immediately.

Walter Sobchak July 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

When are you going to learn that the courts do not have your back. They are part of the problem, not part of the solution. I predict that if these quotas wind up in Court, they will be deemed to be taxes and a valid exercise of authority.

ba July 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Exactly right. All the government has to do is impose a gender equality tax on all colleges that don’t have as many or more women than men in their STEM programs. Say $1,000,000 per male student over quota. Sounds constitutional to me.

progressoverpeace July 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm

“Obama hinted that Title IX quotas would soon come to engineering and techology, saying that ‘Title IX isn’t just about sports,” but also about “inequality in math and science education’”

This coming from a guy who spoke about the insanely ridiculous notion of “profit AND earnings ratios” and bragged that his health scare bill would “reduce premiums by 3000%”. Barky is a total retard, himself. America really did ourselves in by electing such an idiot (even aside from his outrageous hate of America and all things American). We’ve even allowed this idiot to stay in office as he’s violated the Constitution tens of times and babbled on with some of the most idiotic ideas ever heard. Barky has the mathematical sophistication of a slow 8th grader and now he’s going to lecture those of us much smarter than he ever could be (meaning most of America) about how we should set quotas for areas that are essentially objective and depend on nothing but one being able to understand the concepts and do the work.

I hope and pray that the Indonesian Imbecile’s SAT and LSAT scores will see the light of day sometime soon. As soon as his pathetic scores are finally public (there’s no doubt that Barky would have been lucky to get 900 on his SATs) maybe America will finally wake up to the total idiot occupying the White House who is pushing our nation over the precipice – and I mean “precipice” in its normal, dangerous meaning, not in the way the Idiot-in-Chief used it as a good thing in talking about his health scare monstrosity … because he’s such a friggin idiot.

Quotas in science and math … LOL. Who would even think of such a thing?

Nils July 11, 2012 at 8:51 am

Well the men could still go to India and get their degree there after the STEM departments at US universities are eliminated due to lack of students.

Funcuz July 11, 2012 at 9:20 am

The only thing that is truly amazing about any of the Left’s initiatives to privilege women at the expense of men is how easily the general public buys into it .

How can anybody look at the statistics on education in the United States (or any other Westernized and fully developed country) and claim that it’s females that are suffering discrimination ? It actually takes a fair amount of mental (and ethical) gymnastics to convince oneself that females are somehow discriminated against by not being encouraged enough . Isn’t that basically the same thing as saying that women can’t be trusted to make the “right” choices in education ? A suggestion that they’re too stupid to choose ‘correctly’ ?

More importantly , why is the Left so determined to undermine the idea of a meritocracy ? I don’t say that as a Right winger as I have no love for them either . I guess I’m not interested in rhetoric from either side but I can’t figure out why the Left is still clinging to ideas culled from socialism that history has proven are impractical if not simply unworkable .

Nils Sweden July 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm

“why is the Left so determined to undermine the idea of a meritocracy ?”

Isn’t that quite obvious? Because lefties know that’s their only chance to get in.

JKB July 11, 2012 at 9:48 am

This is great. No better way to break the higher ed monopoly. Lots and lots of males denied an education by the “establishment” will seek other means in the trades and other institutions. They will owe on allegiance nor have been damaged by the current dogma. This was prevalent for religious reasons 300 years or so ago. From it we got steam power and the industrial revolution.

Now, how will they balance the foreign student pipeline? Will native male students be doubly targeted so the schools can keep the foreign money flowing?

Neil July 20, 2012 at 12:09 am

Dingdingdingdingdinnnngg! We have a winner!

There’s going to be lots of good STEM teachers thrown out of work, and lots of talented potential students denied degrees. In the age of Khan Academy, they will find each other somehow.

Robin July 11, 2012 at 11:26 am

This seems crazy because it is but it is also par for the course with just how far out there all this administration’s ed reform policies are when you strip away the rhetoric. Both K-12 and higher ed. STEM is not considered to be separate disciplines but a problem-solving approach. Judith Ramalay coined the acronym when she was at NSF. So it’s not about mastering a body of knowledge.

To get a theory of education that applies to all students equally, STEM now stands for a community of individual scientists and other professionals “that engage in shared practices of ongoing knowledge creation, understanding and revision.” If you see STEM as a social process and they do and think he who pays the piper gets to name the tune, you get to redefine science or math or history to fit your ideologies.

The ideology is there is to be no discrepancies in who is part of the community from their representation in the general population. It’s not just gender. Ethnicity. Race. Learning disabilities. All are mentioned in various places as now being presumptively illegal without proportionality.

Steven July 11, 2012 at 11:52 am

I hope you all realize that this could easily become a reality.

Since the feminists got their grubby paws on Title IX, and have warped it’s original intended use, over ***30,000*** men’s sports programs in the U.S. have been terminated.

That’s not a typo – over 30,000 of them.

No one touches programs that are stereotypically female, and no one has gone after the “Seven Sisters” colleges for a lack of male education opportunities.

As insane as this sounds, a lot of us may (or may not) be aware of how powerful the PC (and especially feminist) grip is on U.S. campuses – but this is a serious possibility.

I mean – how INSANE is it to hobble our STEM (Science Tech Eng Math) departments by limiting qualified applicants solely on the basis of gender purely to gratify a small but shrilly vocal constituant group.

And be fully aware : the feminist agenda will never stop. That’s not hyperbole. Think it through: if they “got everything they wanted”, does anyone honestly believe if they got all their wishlists fulfilled, that they’d shut down all the Womyn’s Studies Departments, the gov’t offices, or the various grievence centers?

If they don’t FIND something to complain about they have no reason to get gov’t funding. And be clear – the rad feminist movement can’t survive without gov’t funding.

From Universities to “victims’ services” (more an industry to churn out hateful ‘soldiers’ than to heal) feminist organizations need a grievence to continue to get money.

Notice how feminist organizations have not targeted women’s shelters to admit men? That they have not targeted the over **1000** “Womyn’s Studies Programs” for equal men’s studies programs (not that I want them to)? Or they never seem to worry that currently only 40% of incoming college freshmen are boys/young men? Natch – they don’t care about equality – it’s about grievence, “revenge”, and male bashing.

In every place there is a conflict of want between men and women, they are there to assure not equality but a superior outcome for women. Whenever they can twist facts, they do.

They claim that women “earn less” – it’s horse pucky. In fact, over 1/2 of the wealth in this country is OWNED by women, and women spend over 75-80% of all the money in this country (hardly slaves begging for crumbs). Over 55-65% of all advanced degrees (depending on field) go to women.

But, it’s not enough. There has to be “some injustice” for them to justify their existence with – and this is just the latest.

Oh, and it never occurs to most of us, and certainly not to them, that 1/2 of their OWN CHILDREN are boys – and that those innocent children will pay for their policies while being actively discriminated against in the future. They-Don’t-Care.

Give it some thought.


W Krebs July 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm

The only long-run solution to the problem is to establish the principle that quota systems designed to balance college programs by sex must apply uniformly to ALL degree programs.

Once it becomes apparent that young women are being systematically excluded from majors they want to pursue, then support for quotas would collapse.

Also, this rule, if adopted would completely gut every Women’s studies program in the country if STEM quotas were instituted.

van Rooinek July 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm

As a lifelong STEM nerd, I can tell you this: I have seen absolutely ZERO discrimination against women, in all my years of school and all my years of STEM work. The only discrimination I ever encountered, and there hasn’t been very much of it, was against ME (as a white male).

Women are “underrepresented” in the STEM fields because they are JUST NOT INTERESTED. The few who are interested, are welcomed with open arms.

All STEM insiders must know this to be true. Why aren’t more people saying it?

mike July 24, 2012 at 6:16 am

“All STEM insiders must know this to be true. Why aren’t more people saying it?”

Because they don’t want to get fired?

Simon S. July 26, 2012 at 12:10 pm

“All STEM insiders must know this to be true. Why aren’t more people saying it?”

I have worked over 35 years in engineering. As has been pointed out, few women work in this field because they prefer doing something else. I have known women, very capable and knowledgeable with engineering degrees, that left engineering because they wanted to be a teacher or stay home and raise children. To say that many are not interested is stating the obvious to those of us that live it.

Nils July 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm

So why not cut down the womens studies and other favorites of the feminists as well? The same arguments hold.

Nemo July 13, 2012 at 1:45 am

MITx has already had one online course called “Circuits and Electronics” that had 154,763 registrants and 7,157 people successfully completing the course – I was one of them. This was their sophomore-level introductory course for electrical engineers, taught online instead of in person.


The course was as good as many that I had as an undergraduate twenty years ago.

If the liberals are determined to physically kick men off of campus, they may very well end up slitting their own throats. Liberals have fewer children than conservatives, so they *must* convert some of the conservatives’ kids to liberalism or else they will become a numerical minority and lose most elections.

If men are prevented from studying STEM subjects, then there will be *no* reason for many of them to physically attend college. There will be four years where young men will be free from political indoctrination as they earn online degrees.

When I earned my undergrad STEM degree, I had nine credits of AP credits in history and English from high school and the AP exams. I only needed to take five courses over eight semesters that were *not* in a STEM subject.

With online learning, many bright young men may finish *all* of their non-STEM subject courses (the easy ones) before they graduate from high school. Future online STEM grads may never even come into contact with a liberal professor. They will be able to choose their own professors. That’s very bad news for liberals.

Side Note: It was amusing to correct my history professor by informing him that declassified decyptions of Soviet cables showed that Alger Hiss, his hero, was actually proved to be a spy.


Jethro July 22, 2012 at 4:23 am

It’s simple and obvious: any law that does not treat people equally on the basis or race or sex is in itself a racist or sexist law! The opposite or racism or sexism isn’t reverse-racism or reverse-sexism but equality. The solution is to remove unfair barriers, not to create more unfair barriers to deliberately derail more people.

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