September 23, 1996 · Cavalier Daily

VMI Decides to Allow Females to Enter, Remain Public University

Following a Supreme Court ruling that the Virginia Military Institute must either become co-educational or forfeit its state funding, the VMI Board of Visitors votes to admit female students. Despite the vote, members of the VMI faculty and administration express their preference that it remain an all-male institution.


1996-09-23 Cavalier Daily VMI Decides to Allow Females to Enter, Remain Public University.pdf
1996-09-23 Cavalier Daily VMI Decides to Allow Females to Enter, Remain Public University (part 2).pdf
Christopher Saunders
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
VMI Decides to Allow Females to Enter, Remain Public University
Cavalier Daily Associate Editor
In a controversial 9-8 vote Saturday, the Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors agreed to admit Women beginning next year, ending VMI's status as the country's last male-only military college.
The vote came under pressure from a June 1996 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said state-funded institutions excluding women from the ranks of cadets are unconstitutional.
The Saturday vote was to decide whether to continue to restrict female admissions and forgo state funding, or to open the doors to women and remain public. Had the school opted to continue a male-only policy, it would have been forced to seek funding from private sources and alumni.
The decision, which ends VMI’s 157-year tradition as a single-sex school, worries some who say the college's well-being rests on maintaining an all-male identity.
The vote "may increase our pool or we may (lose) some guys who are looking for a single-sex program," VMI Public Relations Director Col. Mike Strickler said. "It’s hard to tell right now. We'll just have to wait and see."
Despite the agreement go accept women, "every member of the BOV and the vast majority of cadets and faculty would rather VMI remain a single-sex state-supported school," Strickler said. "It’s been an argument whether it will drastically alter the VMI system. It will alter it, but our goal is to change as little as possible."
This included modifying rooms for privacy and putting in individual bathrooms, he said.
The U.S Supreme Court's ruling stemmed from Justice Department allegations that VMI’s males-only policy violates the Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment:
Justice Department Investigations began after officials received a letter from a female high school student complaining about VMI’s restrictive admission policy in March 1989.
In November 1990, then-Gov, L Douglas Wilder said VMI should admit women. In December 1992, VMI asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, but the Court said the case should remain at the state level.
The Court did not agree to hear the case until October 1995. Finally the Court ruled in June, by a 7-to-1 margin, that women should be admitted to VMI. Justice Clarence Thomas abstained from voting because his son attends the school.
Reaction among the University’s ROTC participants generally favored the school's decision.
"When an institution's not representative of the real world it’s time for it to change," said Naval ROTC member Kevin Green. a fourth-year Commerce student, "If it happens more like U.Va. then I don't see anything bad."
"My personal opinion is that the people who go to ROTC programs are more well-rounded than the people who go to [institutions], where they are always told what to do," he said.
Other ROTC members at the University said the co-educational system would be a benefit to the military as a whole.
"If [cadets) do go into the fleet or the army, they'll have to experience working with women and [experiencing] gender differences. There's not a better place to prepare for that other than by training side-by-side,” said Naval ROTC member Keith Oswald, a second-year Engineering student.
Strickler said he disagrees with any plans for a massive overhaul of the VMI system.
"There may be some women who want the VMI experience and they'll receive the VMI experience. I don’t consider it to be right to change VMI for the women cadets who want that experience," he said.
Army ROTC member Jack Garside, a fourth-year Commerce student, said other ROTC programs also could benefit from the VMI decision.
“I think that it will encourage women to show interest in the ROTC program at the University," Garside said.
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Date Added June 12, 2016
Date Modifed December 24, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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