Court Rules Citadel Must Admit Woman Exclusion Of Faulkner Violates Her Equal Rights
Striking a heavy blow to the Citadel’s fiercely defended all-male tradition, a federal appeals court Thursday ordered the college to admit Shannon Faulkner to its corps of cadets.
In a 2-1 ruling against the Charleston, S.C., military school, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said the Citadel can no longer exclude Faulkner, and presumably other women, from a program that has been exclusively male for 152 years. Such a refusal, the court said, would violate Faulkner’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
The order, which upholds a lower-court ruling from July, requires the Citadel to admit Faulkner in August unless it can establish - and earn court approval for - an alternative program for women at another school.
The Citadel has said it will not appeal, and plans to set up such a program. But Faulkner’s attorney, Val Vojdik, and the appeals court both suggested it would be difficult to comply and that the plan might be challenged in court.
The Citadel has long contended there is little demand from women to enter the school. But Vojdik said Thursday that she expects Faulkner to attend the Citadel this fall, and she held out the possibility that dozens more women may join her. The Citadel has had more than 140 requests for applications from women since last July, when a federal judge in South Carolina ruled that the Citadel must admit Faulkner.
Even if an alternative program were conceived, Vojdik said, “I don’t think it could meet the constitutional test” because the Citadel’s unique environment cannot be easily replicated. Vojdik had told the court at a January hearing: “We don’t feel that separate-butequal is equal for women or for minorities.”
But the Citadel’s attorney, Dawes Cooke, said the program does not have to be a “carbon copy” of the one offered by the school. Instead, the school plans a Women’s Leadership Institute, which would blend some of the elements used at the Citadel with programs already offered at two women’s colleges in South Carolina.
Cooke said South Carolina officials have been planning for the new program since fall, and the state legislature has appropriated $2 million for tuition grants. Even so, South Carolina Attorney General Charles Condon acknowledged that it will be difficult for the state to meet the deadline.
South Carolina and Virginia are the only states with publicly financed all-male military institutions. The Citadel has an enrollment of 2,000 and will receive $12 million from the state this year.
But unlike Virginia, which established a separate school for women at Mary Baldwin College, the South Carolina plan would provide tuition aid for women to attend at least two existing colleges in the state.
Faulkner, 20, of Powderville, S.C., has been attending classes at the school since January 1994, but has not been allowed to take part in military training or to wear the distinctive gray uniform issued cadets.
When Faulkner applied to the Citadel in 1993, she deleted references to her gender on school records.