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University of York savaged for saying men are ‘under-represented’ in some academic fields

If women are dominant in certain academic disciplines, don’t call attention to it.

The University of York learned that gender equality is a one-way street, when it said in a press release last week that it would mark International Men’s Day this Thursday. (It’s cached on the Internet Archive.)

Adrian Lee of the university’s Equality & Diversity Committee wrote:

Men are under-represented in the student population as a whole; they are also significantly under-represented in a number of academic disciplines across all three faculties.

He went on to claim that “female candidates have a higher chance of being appointed than men” in academic staff appointments, as well as in professional support services and academic support staff, “with some departments [in the latter] employing no men at all in these roles”:

The reasons for these circumstances are complex and the solutions will not be found overnight, but we are resolved to address these issues systematically and fairly, in the same way that we approach unfairness and discrimination faced by women.

The release goes on to note other objective, evidence-rich ways in which men suffer disproportionately to women starting in childhood and moving through old age.

That provoked about 200 students, staff and alumni to sign on to an open letter to the school excoriating it for pointing out the hardships of men:


[The release does not] acknowledge that the patriarchal structures which underpin society are inimical to both male and female advancement and well-being, or that the achievements of men are celebrated and disproportionately highlighted as a matter of course. We believe in a critical approach towards equality and diversity, which seeks to understand the structural causes of disadvantage.

We also believe that there is a significant reputational risk to the university in aligning itself with International Men’s Day – an event which has not been without significant controversy. The homepage of the global website for International Men’s Day states: ‘The ability to sacrifice your needs on behalf of others is fundamental to manhood, as is honour. Manhood rites of passage the world over recognise the importance of sacrifice in the development of Manhood.’ Retrograde statements like this show a profound lack of understanding on issues surrounding masculinity.

Apparently self-sacrifice is an unforgivable sin for these York community members. They say that “women are structurally unequal to men” and that marking International Men’s Day shows that York practices “mere lip service” to women’s rights:

We ask that you provide a full account of the means by which a decision to promote men’s issues in this way was reached by the Equality and Diversity Committee.

The school took down the press release and posted a new “sorry” statement at the same Web addres, promising that it won’t mark the day of recognition this Thursday:

The intention was to draw attention to some of the issues men tell us they encounter and to follow this up by highlighting in particular the availability of mental health and welfare support which we know men are sometimes reluctant to access.  …

The Equality and Diversity Committee is clear that the main focus of gender equality work should continue to be on the inequalities faced by women, and in particular the under-representation of women in the professoriate and senior management.

The open-letter organizers wrote on their own website on Monday that they are miffed the university still hasn’t explained how it came to decide to mark the day of recognition.

They posted an email from committee chair David Duncan, apparently sent before the school posted its “sorry” statement,” saying the school would “think twice about marking future Men’s Days” and consider whether to “revise the statement in order to make its core purpose clearer” or just take it down.

It chose the latter, evidently deciding not to tangle further with critics.

Read the original release, the apology and the open letter criticizing York.

h/t Inside Higher Ed

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