VMI proposes women's training at other school

September 26, 1993|By New York Times News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- The trustees of the all-male Virginia Military Institute voted yesterday afternoon to underwrite a military program at Mary Baldwin College, a neighboring women's college, in an effort to comply with a federal court order.

A private Virginia Military Institute alumni foundation will

contribute $6.9 million to the program, to be called the Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership, which would include joint exercises with VMI's cadets, use of its obstacle course and rigorous physical training.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling that VMI, the nation's oldest military college, would have to either admit women, go private or establish a program for women elsewhere.

The state would subsidize a portion of the new program.

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said he supports the plan, which will go to U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser in Roanoke tomorrow. Judge Kiser, who upheld VMI's admissions policy in June 1991, has scheduled a Jan. 6 hearing on the new plan.

Critics of VMI, which gets one-third of its budget from the state, said the planned link with Mary Baldwin, a Presbyterian liberal-arts school in Staunton, Va., 35 miles north of Lexington, was inadequate and was likely to be challenged.

"This is separate and unequal," said former State Sen. Emilie F. Miller, who introduced bills to make VMI coeducational.

The U.S. Justice Department, which challenged VMI's policy in 1990 on behalf of a northern Virginia woman, could oppose the plan.

Dr. Eileen N. Wagner, counsel to the Virginia Women's Attorneys Association, which filed briefs in support of the Justice Department, said the stalemate could drag past the year 2000.

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