Addressing the Gender Gap

In the Fall issue, Stephen Golder ’70 writes a letter titled “The Male Gender Gap.” One of his premises, not stated as boldly as I will here, is that heterosexual Oberlin-caliber men rely heavily upon what can only be called the “available babes” factor in making their college decisions. If these guys truly have the intellectual gifts necessary to gain admission, someone needs to tell them that whether or not there is a large pool of “available babes” at Oberlin should not enter into the decision-making process. I also wonder if perhaps, even if they do possess the intellectual candlepower to succeed, they ought to be denied admission for lack of emotional and intellectual maturity. When I, a heterosexual male, chose Oberlin, my decision was based primarily upon its academic reputation, even though I was fully aware that there would be a sizable population of homosexual and bisexual students. Thoughts of finding my “life partner” never really entered into the equation. At 18, I didn’t plan to marry until long after I graduated. And I didn’t. I was actively seeking the diversity that Oberlin promised. I sought exposure to people of other nationalities, races, religions, belief systems, and yes, people with different sexual orientations. I hoped to learn from others, and I did.
Whatever the school decides regarding affirmative action for men really matters to me not at all, as long as the decision-making process is free of bias. I will be just as proud of my degree and the College itself if the student body were to become entirely female or entirely non-heterosexual. I have always believed—and Oberlin helped teach me this lesson—that a well-trained mind and a compassionate heart are far more important qualities than what may or may not exist between our legs or whom we choose to kiss goodnight. Am I wrong about this? Did I miss something?
Finally, I must express my delight at “A Student’s Perspective” written by Peter Meredith ’02. Mr. Meredith’s brief article, entitled “Only in Oberlin,” is a work of art. He is an extraordinarily gifted writer, and he possesses wisdom far beyond his years. So long as Oberlin continues to get students like Peter, transient changes in the demographics of the student body will always be irrelevant.
Paul K. Van Doorn ’77
Columbus, Ohio

Editor’s Note: Several letters from alumni have expressed concern over a potential affirmative action policy at Oberlin to admit more male students. Director of Admissions Paul Marthers ’82 and Associate Director Harry Dawe ’58 offer this response: “In building each first-year class, the Oberlin admissions office considers many factors in creating a diverse mix of intelligent and talented students who can profit from and contribute to Oberlin College. There is no affirmative action plan to admit more men, nor is one being considered.”


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