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Court Delays Admittance of Female Cadet at Citadel : Education: Judges grant military school's request to block first woman from corps while an appeal is considered. She is 'not giving up.'

August 13, 1994|ERIC HARRISON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Nineteen-year-old Shannon Faulkner was saying goodby to friends Friday, getting ready to move 200 miles from home to the fortress-like campus of The Citadel, South Carolina's state-supported military academy, when a federal appeals court scotched her plans to become the school's first female cadet next week.

"I'm surprised, to say the least," said Robert Black, one of Faulkner's attorneys during her yearlong fight to gain full admittance to the school. "I thought we had it this time."

U.S. District Court Judge C. Weston Houck last month ruled that the school's policy banning females was unconstitutional, and ordered The Citadel to immediately accept Faulkner into the corps of cadets. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday agreed with a request from the school to delay the order while the higher court considers an appeal.

The school had argued that Faulkner's admission would fundamentally alter the 152-year-old school.

Maintaining that its all-male policy is not unconstitutional, lawyers for The Citadel nevertheless requested that the school be given a year to develop and implement an alternative off-campus program for women rather than be forced to become co-educational.

Faulkner had been scheduled to report to campus Monday, where she was to receive the same buzz haircut given to all cadets. She would have been given a room in the school infirmary, away from the barracks where male cadets reside.

"Here she is, going to school in two days, all packed up, with all of her school supplies ready," said Sue Coe, one of Faulkner's attorneys. "It's really a letdown."

Coe said the 4th Circuit was exercising "an abundance of caution" in granting the delay and expressed confidence that Faulkner eventually would be admitted.

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The judges said they would expedite the case and planned to hear arguments during the court's December term. Coe said a request had been entered for an emergency hearing, but no date had been set.

M. Dawes Cooke Jr., a lawyer for The Citadel, said the school's appeal had argued that immediate admittance was not of paramount importance since the school's policies allow students to enroll in the corps of cadets up until their junior year. Faulkner, a sophomore, currently is allowed to attend day classes at the school under a court order but cannot participate in military training.

He also said that Faulkner's recent requests for special consideration--such as avoiding having her head shaved--proved that admitting a woman would change the institution. Houck ruled last Wednesday that he would not interfere with the school policy concerning haircuts.

In their ruling Friday, the judges essentially agreed with The Citadel that Faulkner did not need to be admitted to the corps of cadets while the case is still under appeal. Instead, she will continue to attend day classes.

Black, who called Friday afternoon to tell Faulkner the news, said she was "disappointed but not at all discouraged."

Faulkner had been outside saying goodby to friends when he called. "She walked into the house and I hit her with the bad news," said the Charleston attorney. "She said, 'I'm not giving up.' She's tough."

Faulkner's mother, Sandy, told the Associated Press her daughter would have no immediate comment about the appellate court decision but was taking the news in stride. "She's fine. She's having lunch with a friend right now on the patio," she said from their home in Powdersville, S.C.

The one-page order granting the stay was issued by Judges Paul V. Niemeyer and Clyde Hamilton without comment.

Judge Kenneth K. Hall dissented, saying "by all rights, Ms. Faulkner should be preparing to enter her second full year of military instruction and training as a full-fledged member of the corps of cadets."

"South Carolina stubbornly maintains that a system, proved by the nation's service academies to work, is unworkable. Meanwhile, as Faulkner views the drill field from afar, the state continues to deny its daughters the education that is rightfully theirs under the Constitution of the United States. That such a situation could be tolerated in the 19th Century is not surprising, but we are about to embark on the 21st," Hall said.

Faulkner had first applied for admittance to The Citadel--and was accepted--in 1993. The school revoked its acceptance of her application when it learned she is a woman.

The Citadel is one of only two state-supported military schools in the country that do not admit women. The other school, Virginia Military Institute, has agreed to set up a separate program for women at another college.

Officials at The Citadel indicated they likely would pursue a similar off-campus program for women. They had asked Houck to delay Faulkner's admittance until next year to give them time to set up such a program, but he ordered her to be admitted immediately.

The judge gave them until next year to devise an acceptable plan to admit other qualified women applicants.

"The Citadel's defense is to stall long enough until they get rid of (Faulkner) or she'll go away," said Black. The ruling by the court on Friday "is the kind of action they're delighted to see."

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