Whole WomenThis opinion article discusses the recent shift from all-male to co-ed of the Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, following the Supreme Court's ruling that the Virginia Military Institute must either admit women or forfeit its state funding. The writer speculates that the Citadel has been more receptive to the inclusion of women than VMI, but believes that prejudice against women will still be an obstacle, and expresses hope that the women admitted to military institutes under the Supreme Court ruling will forge a new path for women in the military.
AN AMAZING thing happened last week. As the Classes of 2000 were busy moving into their dormitories at universities across the nation, prepared to embark on an adventure that will lead to new discoveries, ideas and questions, four young women entered the gates of the Citadel.
Last week marked the first time the all-male institution allowed women to officially enroll as full-time students without a court order forcing it to do so. That achievement was years in the making and did not come without a hard fight. The question the women of the military academies now face is how to meet the challenges their newly won rights present.
In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Virginia Military Instituteâ€™s male-only policy was unconstitutional. The Court declared that state-supported institutions cannot discriminate on the basis of gender when deciding who to admit. The ruling applied to VMI as well as its counterpart in South Carolina, the Citadel. The decision angered many alumni who wanted VMI to retain its single-sex tradition. After the ruling was handed down, talks revolved around whether the school should go private to avoid complying with the ruling.
While VMI continues to drag its feet, the Citadel has boldly decided to admit women. That decision comes in the wake of the bitter court battle with Shannon Faulkner, who the Citadel mistakenly admitted in 1992 unaware that she was a woman. Last year, the Citadel lost its legal battle and was forced to admit her. Many Citadel cadets met Faulkner's arrival with disgust and resentment.
When Faulkner arrived for the infamous Citadel Hell Week, she was frankly unprepared for the rigorous challenges that awaited her. Her departure after less than a week was rightfully without shame, but the whooping, sign-waving male cadets viewed it as a victory.
Now the Citadel has reversed its steadfast determination to remain single-sex and has acquiesced under the Supreme Court's ruling, deciding to remain a state-supported institution.
What's more, school administration, alumni and students seemingly have come to accept the inevitability of a co-educational environment and appear to be taking it well. In the Aug. 26 issue of Time, Bryant Butler, regimental commander of the Corps of Cadet said, "Not one male incoming freshmen I've talked to said he didn't want to attend because women would be here."
Those positive words, however, do not mean that the path will be completely clear for the first women entering the Citadel. Perhaps the harsh experiences of the past have taught the male Cadets something, but old prejudices and misconceptions surely will be a problem during the next few years. What the brave women who enter the institution must realize is that they have the opportunity to redefine military education.
It is foolish to say that the Citadel and, if it remains state-supported, VMI will remain unchanged by the addition of women into the cadet corps. Provisions have already been made for female cadets such as latches on dormitory doors and curtains on windows â€“ exceptions that most certainly do not apply to male members of the student body. However justifiable those special allowances may be, the fact is that compromises are and will be made.
The brave first class of women to enter the Citadel and those who will follow have the chance to show the naysayers of the country that they can add a new dimension to military education. Perhaps the traditional old-boy mentality and methods will never be the same, but in their place will rise a military institute that graduates men and women who have met intense physical and mental challenges while learning to work together.
In a brief submitted by the Commonwealth of Virginia to the Supreme Court, the state declared that by retaining VMIâ€™s all-male tradition, it was providing diversity in education for the citizens of Virginia. That notion is a bit misguided, because true diversity has been reached at the Citadel only by admitting women. That will create a new and more balanced way of approaching a military education while still reaching the goals and ideals set down by the fathers of those institutions.
In January, before the VMI court case was decided, I wrote a column calling for women to be allowed into VMI to infuse the military tradition with "equality and humanity." I also spoke about the military institution's desire to create the "whole man." Now that the call was heard and women have won their long battle to receive the education experience a military academy can provide. I hope that the women who have chosen this newly exposed path can forge ahead and become the "whole womenâ€ their presence at the Citadel will allow them to be.
|Tags||national media, student publications|
|Date Added||June 11, 2016|
|Date Modifed||December 24, 2017|
|Collection||Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination|
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