Although Shannon Faulkner is no longer in the fray, the battle continues over women in the all-male corps of cadets at The Citadel.
Ms. Faulkner announced Friday she was withdrawing as the first female cadet in the military college’s 152-year history because of the stress of her 2-1/2-year court fight to get in, and her isolation among 2,000 male cadets.
Ms. Faulkner said Saturday that she finally felt relief that her ordeal was over.
“No one ever said anything, but I felt like I was not treated the same way” as other first-year cadets, she told CNN. “I could feel that I was alone.”
But as John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University, pointed out: “She did get in.”
“The barrier is broken, the egg cracked and there is no way to unscramble it,” he said.
It was Banzhaf who originally filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department about The Citadel’s all-male policy. In that case, the department said it could not bring a lawsuit because no South Carolina woman had complained.
But in 1993, Ms. Faulkner sued and the Justice Department did intervene. And since the government is still a plaintiff, the case continues with or without her.
“The Citadel obviously was prepared to operate the same as it did, with minor modifications for one woman,” said Banzhaf, who said the development weakens The Citadel’s contention that admitting women will destroy its system.
Banzhaf also filed a complaint on behalf of an unidentified Virginia woman that led to the government’s challenge of the all-male admissions policy at Virginia Military Institute, the nation’s only other state-supported, all-male military academy.
Both schools are proposing alternative women’s programs as a way to keep women out, and the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to consider both cases.
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, an Emory University women’s studies professor who designed the alternative programs for both states, said Ms. Faulkner’s brief stay at The Citadel shouldn’t have much of an impact.
The real question, she said, is whether there is a place for single-sex education.
That view is shared by Karen Johnson, the national secretary for the National Organization for Women. “The issue is gender discrimination in publicly funded schools,” said Johnson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.
She said Ms. Faulkner was under great stress. While there were 119 women in the first West Point class with women, “she came into The Citadel one person alone,” Johnson said.
Novelist Pat Conroy, who attended The Citadel and used the school as the model for his 1980 novel “The Lords of Discipline,” agreed that Ms. Faulkner faced an impossible task.
“The only solace you get in the place is from your classmates, and what can you do when your classmates are taught to hate you?” he told The Washington Post. “The corps of cadets could run Arnold Schwarzenegger out in two days.”
Citadel attorney Dawes Cooke said Ms. Faulkner’s withdrawal won’t affect a court trial in November on whether South Carolina’s proposed $10 million alternative women’s leadership program at Converse College in Spartanburg is comparable to the men’s program at The Citadel.
“It doesn’t change any part of the case at all,” he said.
Virginia has created a similar program at Mary Baldwin College.
Whatever happens, Fox-Genovese said Ms. Faulkner’s withdrawal fails to prove a woman could not be successful at a military school.
“Different kinds of training benefit young women than benefit young men,” she said. “It says nothing about what young men and women are able to do.”
She said Ms. Faulkner was under tremendous pressure and “while I’m on the opposite side legally, I ache for her personally.”