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A Citadel of Resistance : Military school fights the idea of women cadets every step of the way

August 03, 1994

All the federal military academies, including West Point, have woman cadets. And this fall, if a federal judge has his way, so will the Citadel, the famous all-male military college in Charleston, S.C. But the tradition-bound school is fighting this every step of the way--and its struggle not only makes for interesting reading, it also poses interesting issues.

The first is where Shannon Faulkner, 19, should bunk. Cadets are ordinarily assigned to the barracks, but not the Citadel's first woman cadet: She is to get special housing in the infirmary, where the entry doors can only be locked from the outside, by school authorities. She still needs a lock on the door to her room in the infirmary--one that she can lock from the inside.

Interestingly, U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck, who last month ordered Faulkner admitted, doesn't quarrel with the school's request to house Faulkner separately; but the lock matter is up to the school. Some measure of security is needed to protect the young woman--and indeed the college--given the level of hostility toward Faulkner on campus and the recent death threat against her.

The judge, as if making every effort to help the school ease itself into the 20th Century, also ruled that the Citadel could subject Faulkner to the ritual 10-second haircut by the college barber that all first-year cadets receive.

The final decision on the haircut rests with the college. The Citadel should follow the lead of the federal military academies, including West Point, which allow women to have collar-length haircuts when admitted.

It's obvious that the Citadel, which receives state aid and thus taxpayer money, is a painful example of an institution having a hard time adopting to modern notions of gender equality. The Citadel needs to rise to the occasion. Judge Houck has ruled that the Citadel's all-male admission policy is unconstitutional. The college, while appealing his ruling, is developing a remedial admissions plan. If that plan is also ruled unconstitutional, the Citadel will be required to admit more women in the fall of 1995. It should do so gracefully.

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