Faulkner's Battle Ends, But War Continues
All-male schools still face legal challenges
ATLANTA — Although Shannon Faulkner's two-and-a-half-year battle to breach the walls of The Citadel ended Friday when she decided to drop out, the question of when and whether another woman will be admitted still hovers over the all-male military institution in Charleston, S.C..
Despite her withdrawal from the cadet corps, Ms. Faulkner's lawsuit will continue because the government is still a plaintiff in the case. The next stage of the battle is set to begin on Nov. 6 when United States District Judge C. Weston Houck in Richmond, Va., holds a trial to determine if a $10 million women's leadership program set up at Converse College, a private school in Spartanburg, S.C., will be sufficient to serve as an alternative to the Citadel's education and military training.
If the courts decide the Converse program is a constitutional alternative, other women who have applied or may apply to the Citadel, would be refused admission, some observers say.
Since Faulkner's suit was lodged, four other women have applied to the college, and 200 have picked up applications, according to Valerie Vojdik, one of Faulkner's lawyers. "There is a great demand among women" to attend The Citadel, Ms. Vojdik says.
Faulkner's withdrawal from The Citadel Friday has elated her harshest critics and disappointed some supporters. In the end, she said it was the stress of the long legal fight to get accepted and her isolation among the 2,000 male cadets that contributed to her decision to leave. Citing that the decision was the hardest one she's had to make, Faulkner said she needed to consider her health. She had one morning of military training before spending four days at infirmary, reportedly for a heat-related illness.
"No one ever said anything, but I felt like I was not treated the same way" as other first-year cadets.... I could feel I was alone," she told CNN.
Still, Faulkner has said she has no regrets and that the law was on her side. "I had the right to go," she said.
Faulkner's attempt to get in to The Citadel started in March 1993 when she sued the college after it rescinded a letter of acceptance when it discovered she was a woman. Since January 1994 she has been allowed to attend classes at the Citadel as a day student while the case wound through the courts. But Faulkner was not consider a cadet, therefore was unable to join the corps, wear the blue and grey uniform, or participate in military training.
The Citadel is not the only all-male state-supported military college fighting a battle against admitting women. Since 1990 the Virginia Military Institute has been the subject of a Justice Department suit to overturn its all-male policy. VMI and the Commonwealth of Virginia have also provided an alternative leadership program for women at a private college, but the Justice Department has appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that it is an unequal alternative.
Some experts say these leadership programs can't provide the same benefits to women as the all-male institutions.
The prospect that they could be equal without an alumni network, support systems, and the kind of reputation that a college such as The Citadel has, is wrong, says Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center in Washington. "The alternatives provide a separate and unequal situation," Ms. Greenberger says.