Out of the 111 members schools of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), six are led by female presidents. Some current and former Wheaton College students are hoping their alma mater becomes the seventh, once president Duane Litfin retires in mid-2010.

An "Open Letter to the Presidential Selection Committee"—penned by '05 male graduate Ariah Fine and posted online Friday, October 23—"strongly encourage[s] the committee to search diligently for a female or minority candidate to be in the final pool of candidates." Circulated primarily on Facebook, the letter calls on the committee to uphold its stated commitment to hire someone who will "champion ethnic, economic, and gender diversity."

As of November 2, the letter has garnered 351 signatures, and was sent to the committee right before the application deadline of November 1. Fine said he received confirmation that the committee had received this letter and a similar one he sent this spring, but hasn't heard from any of the committee members.

The letter claims that the number of white male presidents leading CCCU schools is much higher than those leading secular U.S. colleges, citing the statistic that only 2 percent of CCCU schools are led by females, compared with 21.1 percent of secular schools. Fine said he found these statistics from a 2005 Christian Higher Ed article summary available online, and makes this screenshot available.

Mimi Barnard, CCCU's vice president for professional development and research, provided Her.meneutics more recent statistics. As of fall 2008, the gender ratio among all senior administrators at CCCU schools was 86 percent male, 14 percent female, compared with a 55/45 percent ratio among all U.S. colleges and universities.

Further, 5 percent of CCCU schools are now led by women: Sandra Gray at Asbury College; Corliss McGee at Eastern Nazarene College; Shirley Mullen at Houghton College; Kim Phipps at Messiah College; Carol Taylor at Vanguard University (at left); and Andrea Cook at Warner Pacific University. That compares with 23 percent of all female U.S. college presidents, a statistic from the American Council on Education, as reported in Forbes.

Still, the gender disparity is striking.

Barnard, former director of faculty enrichment at Abilene Christian University, said she feels specifically called to ensure greater female leadership at CCCU schools. "Women are half the world … various traditions and various schools will do things in their comfort zones. But that doesn't mean that we should just wait," she said. "If God created half the world to be of the female gender, then it would be nice if they actually had a place at the table."

Others feel that Wheaton's selection committee should primarily focus on applicants' skills and experience rather than on their gender or ethnicity. Fine quoted one anonymous commenter as saying, "[I] would hope that the selection committee finds the most qualified person out there regardless of gender or race. Those two things shouldn't even matter; what matters is who can do the best possible job …. Could it be possible that God has a great godly leader who is another white male? Yes. Would that be so bad? Not really … could he have a woman that is also a minority? Yes, and that would be great too."

How do you think gender should factor into Wheaton's selection process for the next president? Do you think the committee should aim to hire the most qualified person, regardless of gender, or will that only stifle God's creative intent to see "half the world" advance his kingdom? How do the ethics of gender diversity compare with those of ethnic diversity and affirmative action? What are the dangers in making diversity the highest institutional goal?