When you’re a man that goes to a college that is known as a “women’s university,” there are typically two reactions that your male friends will give. If you’re a heterosexual, there’s a good chance you’ll be called some sort of sexually disparaging epithet. After that, then it’s “wow, so you must be around girls all day? That has to be awesome!” and they don’t mean it as “hey, you’re around independent-minded women who are trying to obtain an education.”
I’ve been a party to both of these, and usually I just shrug and say “yeah, I’m usually the only guy in my class. I guess that’s kind of neat.” Either that or I remark how Carlow easily has the cleanest men’s rooms I’ve ever been in.
I was able to go back to school because in 2009 the G.I. Bill was changed to increase the amount of tuition assistance veterans could receive. This bill is called the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and the way it has changed veterans’ tuition assistance is that now the Veterans Administration would pay schools veterans’ tuition directly, as well as give a monthly living stipend, and a biannual stipend to pay for books and incidentals. Having served in the Air Force from 1999-2005, I decided to take advantage of this new law.
In 2010, I had already completed a semester at CCAC on my own. At the time though, I was working a full-time job as an operations clerk at a railroad (up to 70 hours a week, and having to work every other weekend) and being a full-time college student burned me out. So, with this bill becoming law and knowing I could be paid a living stipend every month, I could afford to leave my job and go to college.
When I was selecting what college I wanted to attend, I had a few criteria. I knew I didn’t want to attend a larger campus such as Pitt, so really that narrowed me down to Duquesne and Point Park. One night, on a whim, I decided to check out what Carlow was all about. The first draw to me was the small class sizes. Then, I began to look into the mission statement, the core values, and the educational programs, and I was sold.
Having served in my country’s military because of my belief in service to one’s nation and community and having a dedication to fairness, I was enamored with Carlow’s historical dedication to a fair and just world. The history of the Sisters of Mercy and their works around the world appealed to my own values and vision for how I’d like to see the world.
I am a Reform Jew who grew up with a Roman Catholic mother. I had been exposed my whole life to Catholicism, and my mother lived its values of kindness, compassion, and helping those who were in need. I kind of knew that was what would be expected of me here at Carlow.
But what about the “women-centered” part of the mission statement? Did that mean that every class I took here would be taught only from the point of view of women? Was Carlow teaching that it’s okay to hate men? Was the campus crawling with rabid feminists who sought to make men feel unwelcome on campus?
I came to Carlow and took a tour the spring before my first semester here in September 2011. I quickly realized that any qualms or fears I had of being a male on a campus that was then 93% women for undergraduates were incredibly unjustified and laughably overhyped. As a man, I felt just as welcome here at Carlow than I did on the golf course or at my American Legion hall.
During my tour, I met with someone from the Registrar’s office to plan out my freshman schedule. I remember how they said that I had to take a women’s studies course. This intrigued me because as a red-blooded American male, I figured that women’s studies would be about, well, studying women. When I looked into it a bit deeper and found out that it was about the experience of women in America, I wasn’t
I didn’t recoil in horror or instantly think about transferring to somewhere like Point Park. Instead, I figured that, like theology (figuring it would be based in Catholicism, or at least Christianity), it would just be a course where I can expand my knowledge of a sphere I’m not a part of.
The experience of being a male student here has reformed many of my worldviews. Without question, it’s definitely changed how I view women. Being a native South Carolinian, the ideals of a “kindly, southern gentleman” appealed to me and didn’t seem at all condescending. Now, I realize this view is at best misguided, and at worst, blatant sexism.
Being a man here on campus and having taken that women’s studies course, I now know what women have had to deal with in society over the last 240 years of American history. Learning these struggles and the proper role of women in society, (here’s a crazy thought, women can determine for themselves what their role ought to be), it has made me a better father. It’s made me a better son, a better brother, a better uncle, and more importantly, it’s made me a better person.
More than anything though, I’m proud to call myself a member of the Carlow University community. I’m proud to support our mission statement, all of it, and our core values. I’m proud to call myself a Carlow Man.