On UT's demographic trends

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: The following letter is a response to the article “Higher Education Official Sparks Discussion About Texas’ Enrollment by Gender,” published in The Daily Texan on Thursday, November 30, 2017. The article examined demographic trends in university enrollment. 

The Daily Texan was unbalanced in its presentation of this topic. Maria Mendez gave one unquestioned side of the argument, namely, Raymund Paredes’ assertion that “male students are becoming uncomfortable with the growing number of females at Texas universities.” 

Primarily, I question Paredes’ source for his statement — who are these male students? Where is he getting these “facts?” His opinion is not based in the reality of higher education or the social and economic environment at large.

Yes, currently, UT has slightly more female than male students enrolled (51.5 percent female), as do U.S. institutions of higher education in general. However, that difference reflects a similar one in the population.  The U.S. population is skewed toward females, so a small discrepancy in college students should be expected. Moreover, the majority of undergraduate classes at UT are between 10 and 29 students. That means that in a typical 19 person class, 10 will be female and 9 will be male. With that sex difference, no wonder the male students are becoming uncomfortable!

Did you realize that the last time males were the majority (50.1 percent) on college campuses was in 1978? Yes, female presence increased from 1947 (when the U.S. started collecting data) to 2002. However, since that time, the sex ratio of males to females has remained relatively unchanged. So did Paredes’ statement refer to the “growing number of females” on college campuses during last century? Because the last 14 years have seen no change. 

There is some good news for Raymund Paredes and the hypothetical males confiding in him. Many college majors and U.S. occupations are still largely segregated by sex. If the males are concerned with having a few “extra” females in their classes, they can always resign themselves to studying computer science, engineering or physics, where females remain the vast minority (or have even lost ground, in the case of computer science). Since females endure both overt and covert sexism should they dare to enroll in these majors, they often change into different ones or avoid them altogether. Females know they are not welcome, so Paredes’ confidants should feel quite comfortable in these areas. Not surprisingly, male-dominated college majors often lead directly to high paying jobs where females are the minority. (Did you know that females with advanced degrees still earn less than males with only a bachelor’s degree?) By enrolling in one of these areas, the males Paredes was referring to should be able to minimize their discomfort with dealing with females.

Padres did not check his facts before he developed his opinion on the growing number of females on Texas campuses. I contend that there were no males that Paredes got his information from. His statement reveals his own misguided fear.

Blondeau is a lecturer in the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences.