I can't believe I'm saying this, particularly with the Georgia-Georgia Tech game coming up this weekend, but there are some good things to be found on Georgia Tech's campus. A fair amount of heritage and tradition, for one thing. And while Bobby Dodd Stadium itself is hardly a thing of beauty, its urban setting is unique among college football venues. Particularly at night, the sight of the Midtown Atlanta skyline looming over the field is never less than striking.
There's one thing you won't find on Georgia Tech's campus, though: women.
As of today, the Georgia Institute of Technology is one of only four remaining four-year, non-religious colleges in the United States to admit only men, the other three being Hampden-Sydney in Virginia, Wabash College in Indiana, and Atlanta's own Morehouse College.
Across town at Emory University, you'll see women in the research labs and the campus dining halls. Of course, the University of Georgia has become legendary for the stunning women who take to its quads on fall Saturdays for tailgating. Just down Peachtree Street at Georgia State University, female students outnumber males by a three-to-two margin.
But nary a woman to be found on the Flats -- neither old nor young, white nor black, beautiful nor plain. It's been like that for as long as anyone can remember, to the point where the lack of a female presence on campus has become a running joke for rival schools who want to criticize Tech's moribund social scene. Yet in spite of Tech's no-girls-allowed policy being common knowledge, nothing has been done about it -- and the fact that it's remained for so long speaks to the influence of a good ol' boys' network that still holds sway in places far beyond Techwood Drive.
My criticisms of Georgia Tech's policies are in no way meant to disparage those three fine private institutions. But Georgia Tech is a public university -- or claims to be -- and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, better known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, clearly states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance...
— United States Code Section 20
Those 37 words seem to pretty clearly bar an all-male school like Georgia Tech from receiving any federal funding. Yet in mere seconds you can Google any number of research projects at GT funded by federal grants. The school's Office of Government and Community Relations brazenly lists one of its primary goals as "the increase and diversification of our federal funding profile."
How has this been allowed to continue for so long? I queried both Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about this earlier this week and have yet to hear a reply. But if the not-so-closely-kept "secret" of Georgia Tech's gender discrimination has gone unexplained for this long, I'm not optimistic that either Deal or Duncan will be forthcoming anytime soon.
The truly sad thing is, Georgia Tech did admit women, once upon a time. In fact, Tech went coeducational in 1917, a year before UGA did, presumably due to the thousands of young men who were going overseas to fight in World War I. But while UGA remained coed to this day, Georgia Tech quietly shuttered its School of Commerce, the only school to which women had been admitted, in 1931.
And in 2011 you would sooner find a Heisman Trophy at Tech's athletic offices than you'd find a female student on its campus. None in the dorms, none in the laboratories, none gracing the school's few swaths of green space for a tailgate on a football Saturday. And somehow nobody seems perturbed by this. It's 2011, women can vote, they can serve in the military, they can be appointed to the Supreme Court or pilot the space shuttle -- but they can't get into Georgia Tech, and the boys' club that still holds sway from the Gold Dome in Atlanta to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., apparently is content for that to continue in perpetuity.
Maybe the old guard that's fought to keep Georgia Tech this way thinks they're only hurting women with this policy. But it's become increasingly clear that severe harm is being done to Georgia Tech itself. Without qualified, capable women on campus to spur competition and move the bell curve forward, Tech has grown fat and complacent, allowing its academics to fall far behind the MITs and Caltechs of the world to whose heights it so desperately aspires. Without women to socialize Tech's male students and expose them to the concept of romantic relationships, the "Tech Man" will continue to inhabit the sad stereotype of an awkward, maladjusted man-child who would rather stay inside playing on his computer on a Saturday night than go out and attempt to talk to a girl -- or anyone.
And ironically, Tech's misogyny is even holding them back in an area that has come to symbolize the essence of manliness on major college campuses -- their football team. Year after year, the Yellow Jackets' recruiting classes pale in comparison to those of arch-rivals such as Georgia, Auburn and Florida State, and year after year Tech's long-suffering football fans ask why. But the answer is simple. If you're a sought-after football recruit, where do you want to spend your college career: a place like UGA, where you can be showered with attention from attractive females for four years, or a place like Tech, where the only place to find women is on an adult Internet site at two in the morning while your roommate is trying to sleep? The proof is in the numbers -- since re-closing the doors on women in 1931, Tech is just 9-12-1 against FSU, 27-30-1 against Auburn, and a truly embarrassing 25-50-3 against the Georgia Bulldogs.
So while Tech's no-girls-allowed policy might give a select few Neanderthal alums a fleeting feeling of macho superiority, in the long run it's doing no good for the school's students, its public reputation, or even its athletic programs. If anything, it's harming them. For the good of Georgia Tech itself, if not for the thousands of young women Tech's depriving of educational opportunities, it's time for both Georgia's leaders and the federal government to put their foot down: Demand that Georgia Tech end its misogynistic admissions policies, or take away the school's gravy train. That ultimatum may sting at first, but it's the 21st century, and it's long past time for Tech to get with the program. If the institution's white-and-gold good ol' boys still don't want to have their campus tainted by "a woman's touch," that's their choice -- but it doesn't mean that the rest of the country should still have to fund the state of Georgia's continuing shame.