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London students say uneven gender ratio not important

Eileen Duffy | Monday, February 7, 2005

While females often outnumber males in study abroad programs, directors say they do not take gender into consideration when reviewing an applicant.

But an imbalance is especially apparent in the London Program, where this past fall, 90 females enrolled versus 49 males and last spring females outnumbered males 83 to 65, said Joe Stanfiel, associate director of the London Program.

Terry Bays, another associate director of the Notre Dame London Program, said there are generally more women than men going to London, but said “the difference is pretty slight,” citing fall 2003’s ratio of 77 females to 69 males and spring 2005’s ratio of 69 females to 60 males as examples. She also hypothesized that the reason more women applied for the fall was because more men wanted to stay on campus for football season.

Bays did say the London office has addressed this gender imbalance in the past.

“If it was felt that there was an imbalance, it was always addressed at the level of recruitment,” she said. “There was a concerted effort to, say, hold more informational meetings in the guys’ dorms.”

Several students said the gender inequity did not affect their time in London whatsoever.

“I don’t think it impacted my experience all that much,” said junior Sean Friedman, who went to London this fall. “I didn’t think about how my gender would affect my acceptance, either. I just tried to write the best essay I could.”

Junior Christopher Mahoney, who also went to London this fall, said he didn’t notice the difference either – but that he was used to the gender imbalance.

“I am an English major. The ratio [in those classes] is pretty similar,” he said.

Emma Nolan, who studied in Rome last spring, pointed to academic majors as a reason for the imbalance.

“I think that girls are more likely to study humanities or foreign languages, and thus want to study abroad,” she said.

Bays noted that an academic major imbalance is also a concern for the office. Should the London Program see more students from one college applying than another, it makes similar efforts in the recruitment process the next year, concentrating on the underrepresented majors.

Cavanaugh junior Meghan Desmond said the extra fem-ales expanded her horizons.

“I was able to get to know some girls from other dorms,” she said.

The only time that gender is considered in the study abroad application review is after the students have been accepted, said Bays. At that point, the program starts calculating the numbers in order to place the students into their flats.

Mahoney said the living situation was the only time he thought about gender in London.

“With girls living just across the hall,” he said, “I began to see the opposite sex less like objects and more like people.”

He recalled their first experience without parietals.

“We were sitting around and suddenly 2 a.m. rolled around,” he said. “We all asked ourselves, ‘What happens now?’ When we realized nothing was going to happen to us, we carried on talking as usual.”

More females or not, Mahoney found studying abroad to be a great experience for gender relations.

“We got along famously,” he said, “traveling all around Europe together.”