The Thinking 

“My Dream College Won’t Accept Me”

January 18, 2013


A WOMAN named Elif Koch writes in The Atlantic of being denied admission to Deep Springs, a liberal arts college located on a cattle ranch and alfalfa farm in the desert of California. Miss Koch, who believes the world is interested in this utterly trivial infringement of her personal desires and is wholly oblivious to the recent feminization of colleges, argues that higher education is limited for women because it does not offer them the sort of experience available at Deep Springs, which emphasizes learning and rugged, dude labor. This is similar to a man stating that because he was not accepted onto the Notre Dame football team, higher education is closed to him.

The all-male outpost of Deep Springs has only remained all-male by court decree. Even the current board of trustees, no doubt worried to death of lawsuits by the likes of Miss Koch, wants it to go co-ed. Nevertheless, Miss Koch smells a conspiracy.

She writes:

The fact of the matter is that young women face a lack of diversity in their higher education. Young men do not pine over all-women schools like Bryn Mawr or Scripps because there are reasonably similar co-educational programs. However, there is not a school like Deep Springs that is available to young women.

Boys don’t want to go to Bryn Mawr because they don’t want to be girls. And girls like Miss Koch only want to be boys when maleness is idolized.

One can’t help but ask: Why doesn’t Miss Koch get a job at a cattle ranch? She writes:  “I wanted to immerse myself in my education, to get away from the noise and distraction of society and gain introspective awareness and keen focus.” “Introspective awareness” is not something a woman gains when she is surrounded by handsome and smart dudes. Convents offer introspective awareness, not collegiate cattle ranches.

This woman has spent far too much time staring at college catalogues, and mistaking them for real life. Why would a young woman seek to destroy the obvious pleasure some men take in being with other men? Miss Koch believes the desire of any woman to live in masculine environment is superior to the desire of any man to do so. She flatly asserts that she is being denied something while failing to recognize that the granting of her desires entails the denial of someone else’s. Surely, there are some men at Deep Springs who like it as it is.

Instead of devoting her energies to complaining about not being admitted to this dude college, Miss Koch should ponder why it is she lives in a world where a girl is called by the depressingly ugly and anti-feminine name of “Elif Koch.” It seems Miss Koch is a classic case of what might be called nominal determinism.


—- Comments —-

David C. writes:

According to the article, Kinch Hoekstra, University of California Berkeley professor and one of the dissenting Deep Springs trustees, explained to Miss Koch, “The great thing about the legal protection of charitable trusts over time is that we don’t all have a bunch of institutions in 2013 that are wholly determined by what trustees happen to think in 2013. That would lead to an appalling homogenization of our cultural, social, and educational landscape.”

Hoekstra seems to get it. I would suspect, though he does not say so outright to Ms. Koch (as perhaps is prudent), that he may in fact recognize that a single sex institution (particularly an all-male institution in this day and age) has unique value precisely because it is single sex, whatever its other merits may be.

In connection to Mr. Roebuck’s January 1st outline of a traditionalist resistance to liberalism in the contemporary context, I wonder if charitable trusts might have a valuable role to play in, as he suggested, creating anti-liberal institutions — in addition to safeguarding and advancing tradition and all the value that entails. It may be one of the few formally recognized places left in society where even liberals cannot have their way with us.

Laura writes:

I see no reason to suspect that Kinch (!) Hoekstra gets it. He makes no argument in favor of all-male education per se. If he supports it, he should defend it instead of appealing to the mindless argument for “diversity?” Obviously diversity itself is meaningless. No one wants to see colleges with, say, children as professors even though that would certainly add to the diversity of higher education.

Also, courts today will not necessarily protect charitable trusts. One of the most famous recent examples of a court approving a violation of a philanthropist’s explicit wishes was the relocation of the Barnes Museum near Philadelphia in violation of the original trust established by  Albert C. Barnes.

Thomas F. Bertonneau writes:

Elif Koch’s self-adulatory complaint about being denied admission to all-male Deep Springs College suggests the operation of profound, politicized resentment deliberately looking for the institution least likely to accept her – entirely for the purpose of being rejected so that she might then make a private molehill into a public mountain.  That is exactly what she has done.  The same nefarious principle drove the homosexual lobby to badger the Boy Scouts for decades and first broke down the sex-barrier and then demoralized officer-training at the military academies.

Koch’s complaint reveals the essence of liberalism: It places “dreams,” which on analysis are indistinguishable from resentments, on the same ontological level as reality and then interprets any discrepancy conspiratorially as a program to “exclude” some segment of the population from an activity or institution – in this case sweating in the Mojave Desert while wrangling the aromatic cattle.  As you pointed out, if cattle wrangling were her goal, she could have the experience tomorrow for much less than it would cost to enroll for a semester at Deep Springs.  That’s what a “dude ranch,” where “dudettes” are perfectly welcome, is for.

I’m inclined to generalize my argument.  When liberals speak of “dreams,” what we should hear is, “resentments.”  And when they yammer about wanting “to participate,” what we should hear is, “to destroy.”  The dream of liberalism is to destroy – anything not liberal or even just presumptively not liberal.  Koch’s “dream” is to destroy Deep Springs College.

Laura writes:


Miss Koch sees herself as the heroine in a typical liberal narrative. But the real story is that she represents the conqueror and oppressor, not the victim.

David C. responds to Laura:

Perhaps you are right, but my liking for Mr. Hoekstra’s answer stems from the fact that he at least explicitly defends something different than the ‘appalling homogenization’ generated by the overwhelming dominance of contemporary liberalism. He was one of two out of 12 trustees who voted against opening the doors of the school to women. This in itself is yet one more reminder of the pervasiveness of liberalism. If more people thought like him, traditionalists would have — not outright hegemony, which is not something we can reasonably expect at this juncture anyway — but a seat at the table, so to speak. As it stands we are suppressed. I don’t need everyone to agree with me and take up the causes that are valuable to me, but I do want people who stand against my being marginalized because of the views I hold.

Joe A. writes:

Boys don’t want to go to Bryn Mawr because the girls that do go to Bryn Mawr don’t like boys. Full disclosure: I lived in Bryn Mawr for many years as a bachelor about town.

Mary writes:

Ah, the insatiability of the liberal mind. It’s simply never enough – an endless seek and destroy mission. Laura sums it up aptly: “Miss Koch sees herself as the heroine in a typical liberal narrative. But the real story is that she represents the conqueror and oppressor, not the victim.” Miss Koch has written a fantasy for herself that she is being restricted from fulfilling; her anger and disappointment are supposed to touch us deeply. So seven young women have been knocked out of attendence at a tiny, obscure all-male college that offers only half a degree to 26 total students living on a dude ranch. Can Miss Koch really be so blissfully unaware of the salient fact that for several decades now countless young, white men have been knocked out of the running at their own dream schools because of quotas – including those for women? Welcome to the real world, my dear Miss Koc.

I hate to say it about my own sex, but this brand of over-educated young woman shows remarkably little insight. It’s truly rather shocking. I can’t help but be reminded of Sandra Fluke, the poster girl for free contraceptives during Obama’s latest campaign. Not only did she attend Cornell and Georgetown to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars; not only will she earn deep in the six figures in her first job out of law school; not only can she sleep around with impunity, have a baby out of wedlock, terminate any baby she decides against, not only can she manufacture a baby using a sperm bank and avoid pregnancy with universal and liberal access to contraceptives: no, all this is not enough. Her contraception must be paid for. By the Catholic Church.

Mark Steyn on Ms. Fluke: “…So this is America’s best and brightest — or, at any rate, most expensively credentialed. Sandra Fluke has been blessed with a quarter-million dollars of elite education, and, on the evidence of Wednesday night, is entirely incapable of making a coherent argument. She has enjoyed the leisurely decade-long varsity once reserved for the minor sons of Mitteleuropean grand dukes, and she has concluded that the most urgent need facing the Brokest Nation in History is for someone else to pay for the contraception of 30-year-old children. She says the choice facing America is whether to be “a country where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom, or one where that freedom doesn’t apply to our bodies and our voices” — and, even as the words fall leaden from her lips, she doesn’t seem to comprehend that Catholic institutions think their “voices” ought to have freedom, too…”

Laura writes:

There is also a quite simple motive for Miss Koch’s resentment. She wanted to get published in The Atlantic.

Mary writes:

I hate to say it about my own sex, but this brand of over-educated young woman shows remarkably little insight. It’s truly rather shocking.

Miss Koch is a walking argument for all-male education.

Sophia writes:

Why did you put an exclamation point after Kinch Hoekstra’s first name? It struck me as a petty derogation of something he has no control over. His last name sounds Dutch. Perhaps his first name is, too. A lot of foreign names sound strange. I could have a lot of fun with the name “Kidist.” But I wouldn’t. It’s probably a very pretty name in Ethiopian.

Also petty was your dismissal of Hoekstra’s legal reasoning, which I thought was spot on. You can make all the emotional appeals to masculine space that you want to, and I would agree with every one of them. Unfortunately, they would lose in court. As they should. We don’t base legal decisions on concepts like masculine space.

You sound a lot like the author herself, except you are on the other side. “Despite the complex trust law issues and the ongoing court case, the issue to me is simple. Young women aren’t able to apply to a school like Deep Springs, and we should be.”

I would say to her, and to you, that we are (or we say we are) a nation of laws, and not men. You make legal arguments for legal cases, not emotional appeals to do the right thing. That’s for the movies.

Laura writes:

Perhaps “Kinch” is a Dutch name, but we don’t live in the Netherlands and thus it is an odd-sounding name to me. My exclamation point did not amount to much of a derogation of Mr. Hoekstra. It would not have been proper in the original post, but in a comment in a discussion, I think it’s fine.

Mr. Hoekstra was not arguing in court when he made the comments David cited, he was explaining to this young woman why the school’s exclusion of women made sense. He utterly failed to educate her on the value of single sex education — and perhaps he did so out of fear of retribution. After all, many institutions, clubs and associations have been essentially destroyed, pulverized into dust culturally speaking, by just the argument Miss Koch is making.

You say that we are a nation of laws, implying that we are a nation of just laws. Laws that make it illegal for a private institution to exclude persons for any reason, let alone because it recognizes meaningful distinctions between men and women, are unjust and unconstitutional. Deep Springs should never have had to defend its status as an all-male institution in court. However, again, Miss Koch’s piece was not basically on the legal case but on the fact of an all-male school.

Brenda writes:

I remember reading about Deep Springs College a few years ago, when I picked up a small book called “Treasure Schools:  America’s College Gems”.  Here’s how this publication introduced the school:  “It’s a man’s world.  OK, so that’s not the real motto of Deep Springs, probably the most unusual school in the United States, but it could be.  After all, this school’s just for men.  Smart men, who don’t mind getting up before dawn to do the required chores and who willingly live without television.  Sociable men, who can significantly contribute to the tiny campus community (just about 27 students) and its system of self-governance.  Exceptional men, who have the stamina–and resume–to get through a rigorous, uber-selective admissions process (roughly 10 percent of applicants are accepted).  But for the lucky few who do make it in, Deep Springs offers an unparalleled educational experience.”

As of the publication of this small college guide (2006) there was no tuition cost to attend Deep Springs.  There is no tenured faculty.  There are no majors & no specialties.  The only courses required are Composition and Public Speaking.  And it sounds as though these students work very hard, in exchange for the education, and room & board they’re receiving.  There is only one dormitory.

I can’t help but see Elif Koch as the kind of student who would Google the keywords “colleges with free tuition”….and then purposely select the one barred to her.  And she daydreams about “shaking things up”, and having some stupid TV magazine show send a reporter and a couple of camera guys out, to follow her around during her first week at Deep Springs.  And, of course, there goes the very thing that makes this particular school what it is.

Your commenter, Mary, put things quite well.  I will say, simply, that Miss Koch should strive to be a first rate woman, instead of a second rate man.  How I pray Deep Springs does not weaken & allow themselves to be beaten into submission over this attention-seeker.

 Mary writes:

The Atlantic has a knack for publishing the writings of feminists, or in this case a junior feminist, who through their writings inadvertently reveal the twisted logic in their thinking and the toxic self-centeredness that dominates their lifestyles. For instance, Kate Bolick, an unmarried, childless 39-year-old writer, self-described as having had (and slept with) “too many boyfriends to count,” who went through a serious depression after breaking up at 28 with the one great guy who wanted to marry her, is paid to pontificate on marriage of all things. Her piece reads as a cautionary tale against following in her footsteps by not marrying the great guy, rather than as the paean to singlehood it was meant to be.

 “There is also a quite simple motive for Miss Koch’s resentment. She wanted to get published in The Atlantic.”

I’m sure Miss Koch is basking in the glow of adulation she is receiving from her parents, teachers  and friends as the Girl Who Got Published In The Atlantic while still in high school. And it will look great on those college applications.


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