A Plummet in Women’s Enrollment

My economist and I keep talking about an article on the cover of Thursday’s Voice (11/30/17).

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What is a “dip”?  Open to p. A2 and dig down a few paragraphs:

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27.2 percent?

That’s not a dip; it’s a plummet, like thisminus the safety ropes. Don’t miss the scream:

 

 

Yikes!  Back to the women’s plummeting enrollment– how much revenue in tuition is  27.2 percent?  What caused it?

Nationally women compose 56.5% of college students, but Western Illinois University has lagged behind this trend for as long as I’ve been here, and now it’s dangerous.

How does Western afford the lost revenue and hit to reputation?  Upper Admin and the Board of Trustees have kept closed session minutes secret.  Secrecy leaves this failure of enrollment unexplained.  Do they have a grand plan to purge the feminists from campus or are they hiding incompetency?  Do they hate women so much they’d prefer to falter from insufficient tuition than support a curriculum that would make women want to come here?  I doubt leadership intends for the consequences of their decision to result in sexism or loss of women, but until we hold frank, informed discussions, without the secrecy, we have to keep asking.

In the Voice article, the admissions director claims women are interested in Nursing  and Education.  That’s a stereotype.  And if women are indeed interested in those fields,  why aren’t they coming?  The nursing department literally displaced the Women’s Studies offices in Currens.  If Nursing is so much better for WIU than Women’s Studies (and yes–they are laying off the WS professor while recruiting nursing instructors), where are the women?  Maybe future nurses want to attend an institution that values Women’s Studies.

And what happens next year if WIU doesn’t reverse this nasty trend?  How do we recover?  Without women’s student fees,  how will WIU  cover its football program?  Will men want to come here as women continue to leave?  So many questions.

Or are we trying to attract conservative men who are looking for women trained in the areas of caregiving and childcare–women who will make subservient and supportive wives?  Given the the programs WIU has chosen to promote (Policing/Nursing, Ag/Teaching), we need to have a frank discussion about sexism and gender roles.

My economist (also my husband of 20 years), generally an optimistic guy, is alarmed.  If this trend is not corrected, the campus will not survive.

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My alarmed economist.

The good news is, it’s not too late to recover our enrollment.  Here’s how to start:

Restore the major in Women’s Studies.

Students seeking 4 year degrees aren’t dumb and won’t be fooled.  You want women’s tuition?  Place women and people of color, with white men, at the center of a broad liberal arts curriculum and give the tired stereotypes a rest.  Restore the major in Women’s Studies.  Only then will you be able to assure young women that you value them.  With the hundred plus  job announcements I’ve been receiving for over a year now, you can afford to bulk up Women’s Studies.

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The Upper Admin has sent me more than 150 “career opportunity for you” emails. How can we afford to fill these posts, yet not afford Women’s Studies?

Nearly two years ago, I indicated that eliminating Women’s Studies and African-American Studies would entail great costs to our student body.  Given my state of complete astonishment and shock from the still-fresh layoff notice,  I am surprised that my editorial is coherent.  I stand by my core argument, now made stronger by the plunge in women’s enrollment.

Why would women and other disempowered  or underrepresented peoples enroll here if you push us to the edges of curriculum and layoff the people who teach about people who look like us?

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The month after my layoff, the Western Courier ran my guest editorial.

Move into the 21st century:  invest in women, value them, don’t shy from feminism.  They will come.

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