Citadel proposes state-funded military education at women's or coed colleges

October 06, 1994|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The all-male Citadel military academy, saying that women should have a chance to get "a Citadel-type education," proposed yesterday that they be allowed to do so with state financial help -- but only at all-women or coed colleges.

The plan to divert women away from the cadet ranks of the Charleston, S.C., academy is similar to one that Virginia Military Institute suggested as a way to maintain the all-male status of its ranks on the campus in Lexington.

Those are the only two publicly run military schools still segregated by sex, and both have been fighting the Justice Department and women's groups for years in federal courts to try to keep women out.

The challengers contend that the two military academies provide a unique form of publicly financed education and that the exclusion of women from that opportunity is unconstitutional.

Both the Justice Department and women's rights organizations are resisting the go-elsewhere alternative in the VMI case, which appears to be headed to the Supreme Court. A federal appeals court in Richmond held a hearing last week on the VMI suggestion that women who want military-style educations in Virginia attend Mary Baldwin College, an all-female institution in Staunton, instead of VMI.

The Citadel was ordered by a federal judge in July to admit a woman, Shannon R. Faulkner, 19, of Powdersville, S.C., to a full role as a cadet. Originally, Ms. Faulkner was to have gotten the benefit of that ruling this semester. But the appeals court in Richmond temporarily postponed that ruling while the case is appealed.

In the meantime, Ms. Faulkner is continuing as a day student at the Citadel -- the status she has had since January.

One of the reasons why the judge ordered the Citadel to let Ms. Faulkner enroll fully as a cadet was that the Citadel and South Carolina officials had done nothing to carry out a promise to work out an alternative, including "a parallel institution or program" -- that is, a military-style education, but not at the Citadel.

Yesterday, the Citadel and state officials unveiled such an alternative at a news conference in Charleston. They asked the judge to approve that plan as the only remedy available for Ms. Faulkner and other South Carolina women interested in a military-style college education.

The Justice Department said it would not comment until after it had studied the plan.

The plan calls for a "Women's Leadership Institute," keyed to the value that state officials see in single-sex education, but with military-style training for "leadership" as the mode of education.

The Citadel said it was putting up $5 million from its own private sources of gift money "to launch this innovative, forward-thinking approach to increasing educational opportunity for South Carolina's young women."

Under the plan, women willing to enroll in the Institute could attend one of two women-only colleges in the state, Columbia College or Converse College, beginning in the semester that opens in the fall of 1995.

The Institute would create a cadet corps at each of those colleges, and the women would have to enroll in ROTC, and remain in it for four years. They would get additional military training in the summers at an academy in Fort Jackson, S.C.

The Citadel promised that its network of alumni would provide its "full support" to the female cadets at the other colleges, and help them plan careers.

If women in the state want a military education, but prefer to have it in a college also attended by men, the plan would allow Institute cadets to enroll at North Georgia College, a military school in Dahlonega attended by both sexes.

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