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Male grad student wonders, “Are Mills men crashing the party?”

I received an e-mail from an incoming graduate student who asked various Mills-related questions-one of which dealt with the type of reception he should expect as a man attending a women’s college.

I replied that my overall experience so far is positive, but there are times when men are looked upon as party crashers.

As I answered the rest of his questions, I wondered if the College had special policies for admitting graduate men. On a previous trip to the graduate admissions office, I was told that Mills’ graduate programs have been co-ed since 1920. My recent question was whether or not a cap exists on the number of male grad students admitted per year. I was told no, which caught me off guard, because how is the low percentage of male grad students maintained without a conscious effort by the institution?

I then asked if, hypothetically, all the grad students admitted next year could be male. I was told yes, which also blew my mind.

So, I imagined what Mills would be like if there was an influx of men. I came to the conclusion that it might suck.

One reason is that the number of awkward stares and comments I receive, due to my ethnicity, could increase if the percentage of enrolled men of color remained low. I would still be “othered,” but by an additional gender.

When I asked a few male grad students their opinions, one said he wouldn’t like it due to the possibility more men would increase gender tensions on campus. He added that if undergraduates have a problem with graduate men, they should take it up with the administration and not make a point to be nasty to individual students, especially feminist men or those in line with Mills’ mission.

A second said while he doesn’t care whether or not more men attend Mills, he would appreciate not being spited for being a white male. Another said more men would “take away from the Mills experience,” and that the College has an intimate, progressive feel because it’s traditionally for women.

I asked a couple of undergraduates as well. One said she was okay with a few male grad students, but there would be a problem if the current ratio of women to men was drastically altered. Another said she wouldn’t want more men on campus because Mills is considered a sanctuary for women.

A female graduate student said, “There are always more women than men in my classes, split-level or grad-only, which I like. The Mills men occasionally offer new and different ideas in class, and I appreciate the diversity of opinions they bring.”

She added that an increase of male grad students is another argument for more grad-only classes.

“I personally think the grad students would benefit from this as much as the undergrad women would,” she said. “The grad students could have a higher level of academic inquiry and the undergrads could have all-female classroom experiences.”

So, would an increase in male graduate students be a benefit or detriment to the College?

I can honestly say I’m not ready to find out. If Mills men are currently seen as party crashers, more might take that perception to the next level.

– Ishmael Elias, First Year Graduate Student