Remember when opponents of affirmative action argued that it hurt blacks’ self-esteem because they’d never know if they had succeededon their merit? According to this theory, first-rate students whowould have been accepted anyway are stigmatized by being lumpedtogether in the public mind with students accepted only because oftheir race, and this is stressful and anxiety-producing all around.Much better not to take race into account, and let excellence be theonly criterion.

I wonder how those champions of meritocracy feel about gender-based college preferences for men. Yesterday, Dean of AdmissionsJennifer Britz confessed on the New York Times op-ed page thatKenyon College accepts inferior men over better qualified womensimply because they are men, raising the obvious question : Whatabout the self-esteem of these poor boys? Surely some of them wouldhave gotten into Kenyon without the genital advantage, but how can agiven Kenyon male know it was his brains and not his penis that wonhim a coveted thick envelope? Thanks to Dean Britz’s candor, thevalue of a woman’s Kenyon degree has soared–a girl must be reallysomething to have made the cut–and that of a man’s degree hasplummeted. He went to that college that takes the dumb guys!

If I was a man at Kenyon, I’d be thinking about transferring. Iwouldn’t want people to think I needed a boost just because I wasmale. And I wouldn’t want to wonder if maybe I DID need a boost. Imight even feel guilty that I had deprived a better candidate–youknow, one of those brilliant poetry-writing future-vaccine-discovering change-the-world-for-the better girls Dean Britzdescribes rejecting. I might have to go to a slightly less-selectivecollege, but that would be okay: I would have my self-esteem!