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Women Begin a New Era at The Citadel

Education: Four students settle into rooms before orientation. They mark the end of long court fight that ended all-male status of military school.

August 25, 1996|From Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The future arrived at The Citadel on Saturday as two female cadets quietly shook hands in the courtyard of a white-walled barracks where they will live and drill alongside men.

After losing a 3 1/2-year court fight, the state-supported military school--for 153 years a bastion of Southern manhood--has willingly admitted female cadets.

Four women moved into two first-floor rooms in the barracks and started two days of academic orientation. On Monday, they will receive short haircuts, uniforms and other supplies, and then begin military training.

"I do not think the women will be given an easy ride," said Clifton Poole, an alumnus and the college's interim president. "I think a majority of the people associated with The Citadel would have liked the school to remain single-gender. However, that is past."

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The four are not the first female cadets at The Citadel. Shannon Faulkner became a cadet under a court order a year ago. But she became ill and dropped out after less than a week on campus, citing her isolation as the only woman and the stress of the legal fight.

When Faulkner arrived, U.S. marshals stood by, and demonstrators both for and against coeducation waved signs outside the school's gate.

Saturday's arrivals were more low-key, although a group of about a dozen people supporting female cadets demonstrated briefly at the gate, one holding a sign saying, "Thank You Supreme Court."

On campus, cadets Nancy Mace of Goose Creek, S.C., and Jeanie M. Mentavlos of Charlotte, N.C., met in the barracks courtyard and shook hands.

Later, Mentavlos and her new roommate, Petra Lovetinska, a Czech national, walked across the grassy parade ground together with their families. The fourth new cadet is Kim Messer of Clover, S.C.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the all-male policy at Virginia Military Institute, the nation's only other all-male, state-supported military college, was unconstitutional. Two days after the ruling, The Citadel announced it would admit women.

The new cadets will receive the same training as the men but, unlike the men, will be permitted locks on their doors and curtains on their windows.

All had kept a low profile in the weeks leading to their enrollment.

The women's parents were also low-key.

"It's going very well, just as planned," said Mace's father, J. Emory Mace, a 1963 Citadel graduate and retired Army general.

"She's all right; she's fine," Harvey Messer said after dropping off his daughter. "[You ask] are you guys excited? Well we are. But we're trying to stay away from everybody."

Lovetinska's father, Jaroslav, an employee at the Czech Embassy, spoke briefly with reporters as his son, Jan, translated.

"She was interested in coming because it was a really good school," he said.

Poole briefly stopped in Lovetinska's barracks room after she arrived to make sure she was settled in.

"I told her she didn't need to be nervous, and she assured me she wasn't nervous," Poole said. "She said, 'What I am--I am so happy to be here. I think this may be a dream and I am going to wake up.' "

Citadel seniors, who have been at the school through the entire court fight and who saw Faulkner as a day-class student and then as a cadet, were philosophical about the arrival of women.

"In two weeks, most of the corps won't realize we have women here," predicted Harold Poston, the senior class president.

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