An interesting thing is happening in college admissions: white males, dominant before colleges began to court the URMs (“underrepresented minorities”), are once again receiving preferential treatment. Quietly.

It is because white males are now URMs: more women than men now go to college. But this reversal makes it harder for women to get into college. That’s an issue that nobody really wants to talk about, and the colleges that do give an edge to guys are very quiet about it. Women’s groups, traditionally so vocal, are not on this. Nor is the Civil Rights Commission willing to delve into the matter. What gives?

 Andrew Ferguson has a fascinating article in the Weekly Standard (sorry, subscription required) on what is going on. It of course started because women were once underrepresented:

Since the early 1980s, when a brief period of parity was reached after generations of male dominance, more girls than boys have applied to college each year; in 2011, 60 percent of college applicants will be women. Girls-sorry, fellas-are by any objective measure more attractive applicants than boys, with higher average GPAs and test scores. They have fewer behavioral problems. They write better application essays. They have a wider range of extracurricular interests. They clean up better for interviews. 

On any fairly balanced scale, the acceptance rate for women at selective colleges should be far higher than for men. Instead it’s the other way around. The reason is “affirmative action,” sometimes called preferences, sometimes called quotas-though never publicly. Admissions deans like Britz have placed a thumb on the scale.

This much is generally accepted practice among college admissions deans in the upper tiers of American higher education. But why? If girls are better suited to college, why not let them enter the better colleges at rates equal to their achievements? 

So why not just leave matters alone?

Here is where the Legend of 60-40 enters in. Sixty-forty is the ratio of women to men at which, according to admissions lore, the “atmosphere” of a campus changes irreversibly and the school’s reputation passes a point of no return. It becomes known as a “girls’ school” and before you know it .??.??. there goes the neighborhood.

One of the problems is that the men these colleges attract are often the wrong kind-you know, party guys who don’t mind being outnumbered by the fairer sex, or, in many cases, sexual predators. James Madison University has been plagued by this stark gender imbalance, which has fueled an unhealthy hook-up culture. Yet JMU refuses to try to shift the balance by accepting more men. (William and Mary has, to its credit, put a finger on the scale, saying it’s the College of William and Mary-not the College of Mary and Mary.)

And yet…

Yet the activists have been utterly silent, for reasons we can only guess. There’s been not a peep even from the National Women’s Law Center, which routinely issues press releases with such headlines as “NWLC Files Brief in Supreme Court, Supporting the Women of Wal-Mart in their Class Action Lawsuit” and “House Republican Spending Cuts Devastating to Women, Families and the Economy.” Reached by U.S. News, a spokesman for the American Association of University Women ducked. “We need to help impoverished boys and girls to improve educational outcomes and have equal opportunity,” she said, with stubborn irrelevance.

 So we end up with women’s groups still stubbornly living in the past, pretending we need more lobbying for women’s equality, and an unhealthy atmosphere on many campuses, where young men are underrepresented but colleges are afraid to address the issue.