News By Tag
News By Place
For the First Time, Both Cadet Commanders Are Female
Lawsuits Forced VMI and The Citadel to Admit Women Says Successful Lawyer
Here's what happened, explains GWU law professor John Banzhaf, whose legal complaint to the Justice Department got the first woman admitted to either of the two previously sex-segregated schools,
The Justice Department had filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against VMI, but not against the only other state sex-segregated institution of higher education, The Citadel. Asked why The Citadel wasn't also sued, a spokesman explained that no female had filed a formal complaint which was a prerequisite for such federal action.
So Banzhaf, who had earlier filed a legal complaint which forced the D.C.-based Cosmos Club to abandon a tradition of more than 100 years and begin accepting female members, reasoned that since both state schools were engaged in the same illegal sex discrimination, both should be sued.
So he contacted a female high school student and explained the situation.
She agreed that, because female students should be entitled to make that same choice as males, she would be the subject of a formal legal complaint filed on her behalf by Banzhaf.
After a Justice Department lawsuit was filed against The Citadel as a result of Banzhaf's complaint, a high school student named Shannon Faulkner applied for admission to The Citadel.
Apparently believing that Shannon was male, the Citadel agreed to admit the applicant.
But, when it tried to revoke her admission upon learning of her gender, a judge refused - because of the pending lawsuit - to permit such a clear and illegal act of sex discrimination, especially after the fact.
So, although the lawsuit against VMI preceded that against The Citadel, it was at the latter that the first female cadet was admitted, notes Banzhaf.
That shattered The Citadel's tradition of excluding females which dated back more than 150 years, notes Banzhaf, two years before a Supreme Court decision forced VMI to likewise cease discriminating on the basis of sex.
It was only in the following year - 1996 - that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an historic decision, which set new and tougher standards necessary to justify treating women differently from men, that VMI's policy of likewise refusing to consider females for admission was held unconstitutional. VMI subsequently admitted its first female cadet in 1997.