CHARADES: If there's one thing I feel funny about promoting, it's a rigorous military education. Kind of makes the skin crawl on my pacifist neck. But, all things being unequal, all I can say is, it looks like the time-honored tradition of the state paying for male-only schools is about to go up in a burst of insignias.
Shannon Faulkner was a high school senior in 1993 when she applied to be part of the Corps of Cadets program at that bastion of military maleness known as the Citadel in South Carolina. Her "gender neutral" name did not give away that the athlete and honor student was born without the usual equipment cadets bring to the school.
Our girl was admitted to the Citadel, then found to be phallically-challenged. Thus began the American Civil Liberties Union's attempt to slay the school's all-male policy. I know, you thought that was last summer.
It's been a series of ups and downs since last July when U.S. District Court Judge C. Weston Houck ruled she be admitted unless there was an alternate plan. Talk about the really important issues of BUT WHAT ABOUT HER HAIR?? and WHERE WILL SHE SLEEP?? kept lawyers and reporters painfully busy.
They did not cite having to purchase more toilet paper as a reason to keep her out, but they've tried everything else, including, "Won't she feel weird if she's the first and only?"
School Rule No. 1: Somebody always has to go first. (You don't remember Emma Nutt, the first female telephone operator?) Faulkner can do it. Helping her is Sara L. Mandelbaum, her ACLU attorney.
Mandelbaum told me Judge Houck had good reason to be angry when he blasted attorneys representing South Carolina for waiting until the last minute to come up with an alternate plan for educating Faulkner. On June 6 they offered to commit $10 million dollars to start a program at the all-women's private Converse College in the state. But whoops, they forgot to provide the program details. "This is just an 11th hour attempt to prevent Shannon once again from becoming a full cadet," says Mandelbaum. From my civilian standpoint, this looks like the end of the battle, I tell her.
Not quite. The wedding may still be postponed. Mandelbaum says it ain't over until "she's got the ring on her finger," referring to the ring cadets receive at the school. "I am optimistic we can show in court this summer that the Converse College program is really a farce and won't give Shannon even a fraction of the kind of military leadership education she seeks."
Faulkner's been attending classes minus the uniform and military training since January 1994, with only one problem--she still hasn't been admitted.
In case the Citadel hasn't noticed, this is a woman of strength and determination. Think that might be on the list of good military leadership attributes?
Good old soldier institutions never die, warriors, they just take a long time to wither away.
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