Okay, I have two confessions to make.
One, I went to one of the two remaining all-male colleges left in the country, Wabash College. (I know of exactly one other alumna from my alma mater: you may know her already.) You may have heard of the other all-male college on the pages of Bilerico.
Two: I am a fiscal conservative at heart, and believe that the free market must be allowed to work itself out in situations where consumer participation is voluntary. (Yes, I am that kind of duck-billed platypus of a liberal.)
Single-sex colleges are, by necessity, private institutions. The discrimination inherent in the application process necessarily precludes them from being given federal funds. Because of this they rely heavily on alumni donations, endowments, and student tuition to function and survive. This, in turn, makes the colleges extremely image-conscious, going to great lengths to define the climate, ambiance, and quality of education that's given at the school.
To be honest, one of the largest image issues for an all-male college is being seen as a "gay school"; it can be a detrimental image to the larger population. The college's response is really a reflection of the college values - in itself an act of branding. With these qualifiers in mind, I want to talk a little inside baseball about this Morehouse College crossdressing issue.
First, a bit of straight talk. These two institutions are hanging on for dear life in a tumultuous economy. I get e-mails from Wabash about once a week asking for donations. Morehouse is responding to something they perceive as both an image issue and a roadblock for further donations: in that regard, their response is justified. It defines them as a "strict" school that takes young boys and returns qualified, professional men. The strict dress code was explained as such by a member of the college I met a few years ago.
Wabash is not immune to this issue. As an institution, it has recently dealt with outside perceptions of being a "school for homosexuals." This is not so much a commentary on the school as it is an observation of the social climate: people see an all-male school and say "well, if there are no women there, the guys must be gay." I know I got ribbed at my high school for deciding to go to Wabash, especially in the "Dude, you must be gay" department. The college's response to this perception is vital; failure to deal with it properly could lead to reduced enrollment, which can doom a privately-funded single-sex institution.
Wabash chooses a "hands-off" approach to dealing with perceptions that it is a school for gay people. They do not hide the fact that GBT people exist on campus. They also do not attempt to separate themselves from these GBT perceptions; instead, they respond by challenging people to see the college for themselves. Wabash men will often respond to the "isn't that a gay college?" assertion with a straightforward response, something to the tune of, "Say what you want: I'm getting a good education. Too bad you don't see it the same way."
The difference between Morehouse's and Wabash's response reflects the differences between their school philosophies. Where Morehouse breeds upstanding, professional men, Wabash prizes individual responsibility and critical thinking as most vital to the college experience. Where Morehouse places strict codes of behavior upon its students, Wabash gives only one rule, relying on students to take responsibility for their own actions, as well as the actions of their classmates.
At this point, the conservative must creep out from under the bed to say that both colleges have the freedom to respond to this question in the way they see fit. Since they're self-sufficient institutions, free of government educational regulation, they are free to define their student body in the way they see fit. Yes, I do not agree with Moorehouse's decision to outlaw crossdressing on campus, but it is their right to do so. They believe that this provision will help the campus image: if it does, more power to them. The very survival of a single-sex institution relies on pushing an image of the "College Man" or "College Woman" - they must convince both students and parents that signing up for sex segregation will be better than no sex segregation.
Morehouse has made its bed, and now it must lay down in it. It is our job to make their image suffer for their decision by making their rule changes known to everyone. If we're lucky, application numbers will decrease as a result of the policy; perhaps up-and-coming students are as progressive as we hope they may be, see the policy as a moral injustice, and choose a different college instead.
Freedom to define your college population brings with it the freedom to fail. The Invisible Hand giveth, the Invisible Hand taketh away.