SEATTLE – This fall, David Allen started his new job as chairman of the University of Washington's Women's Studies Department. Allen's position marks a nationwide first: A man heading an academic field born out of the women's liberation movement.
"I think it says that there's a broad range of people who have a set of commitments and concerns around justice for women. Some of those people are men, some of them aren't," Allen told FOX News.
Click in the video box to the right for a complete report by FOX News' Dan Springer.
Campus reaction to Allen's appointment has been mixed, but almost everyone is surprised. Some have called the hire progressive, but one doctoral candidate in women's studies scoffed at the notion that no one else was qualified except this "straight, white guy."
David Hodge, dean of the University's College of Arts and Sciences, was surprised he had to defend his choice.
"I meant no message by this appointment other than I thought this was by far the best person to lead this department into the future. It's also, I think, an affirmation of the evolution of this field," Hodge said.
Allen's appointment does widen the sizeable management gap between the sexes: 79 out of 90 University of Washington departments are headed by men. That uneven ratio is common at most American colleges and universitites. Women's groups in Washington state have been quick to emphasize this fact.
"You're telling me you couldn't find a qualified woman to head up this department? Then I have to ask, what are your hiring practices? Why isn't [sic] there more women being hired for not just this department head, but all department heads?" said Christina Lopez of Seattle Radical Women.
Others call Allen critics hypocritical, saying that by criticizing, they are advocating the same gender bias they work against. One prominent feminist, Tammy Bruce, suggested the movement was weakened because it excluded men.
"For women to put themselves in a ghetto and gaze at their navel and learn only things about them restricts them in the variety of life that exists," she said.
In assuming his new post, Allen himself rejects the label of "pioneer." He maintains that his goal is to promote and hire so many talented women in the program that he'll go down in university history books as the department's last chair-"man."