This week, when upperclassmen arrived at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., Kim Messer, Jeanie Mentavlos, Nancy Mace, and Petra Loventinska had already taken the oath of a Citadel cadet; learned how to salute; survived "hell week"; and become accustomed to their short, "unique female Citadel haircut."
Such accomplishments are remarkable, not because these four are any less capable than their 564 male counterparts, but because they are there at all. After a three-year court fight, the Citadel voted in June to drop its 153-year-old all-male admissions policy.
To be sure, the school arrived at the decision reluctantly, only after The Supreme Court ordered the Virginia Military Institute to admit women or lose public financing. But The Citadel deserves credit for the way it has so far handled the entry of its female cadets. School officials say they expect the four to succeed. They also concede now that the admission of women will bolster a dwindling enrollment and reenergize the school.
The new cadets are to receive the same training as the men. The only outward difference, in addition to the haircuts, will be locks on their doors and curtains on their windows. That's not to suggest that Messer, Mentavlos, Mace, and Loventinska won't face unique challenges. But unlike Shannon Faulkner, who blazed the trail to The Citadel only to leave after a week because of stress and isolation, these women have the advantage of not having to go it alone.
They're also starting their Citadel careers in a less adversarial environment than Ms. Faulkner faced. Last week, as the women and men picked up their cadet handbooks and their duty uniforms, one father of a cadet, referring to the new admissions policy, said: "If any place can make it work, this place can." We hope he's right.