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Virginia Military Institute Cadets Look Forward To Final Judgment

October 6, 1995

LEXINGTON, Va. (AP) _ Cadets at Virginia Military Institute were relieved to hear that the Supreme Court will decide once and for all whether their college can remain all-male.

``I can’t wait until this is all settled and done with,″ said cadet Wyndham Buerlein, who was a freshman when VMI and the Justice Department first squared off four years ago over admitting women.

The court said Thursday it will study competing appeals _ one by Virginia officials and one by the Justice Department. The court will hear arguments in January and a decision is expected by July.

The Justice Department argues that the only way to guarantee women equal treatment is to admit them to VMI. A separate ``women’s VMI″ begun this fall is as unlawful as segregated schools once created for blacks and whites, administration lawyers contend.

Virginia argues that the state-supported military college must keep female students out to preserve its educational goals. Women can attend other public colleges in Virginia, state officials note.

Gov. George Allen said he is optimistic the court will uphold the state’s program offering a VMI-like alternative for women.

``I think it’s constitutional, but beyond all that I think it’s a great idea,″ he said.

Deborah Ellis, legal director of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, said, ``I think the chances are good that the court will ... say that women have to be admitted to VMI.″

She said the case could yield the most significant sex-discrimination ruling since 1976, when the justices ruled that ``classifications by gender must serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to achievement of those objectives.″

VMI and The Citadel in South Carolina are the nation’s only all-male, state-supported military colleges.

Shannon Faulkner battled in court to become a cadet at The Citadel but dropped out in August after less than one week. Her lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to force The Citadel to admit other women.

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