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NOW, ACLU Blast VMI Coeducation Proposals

September 24, 1996

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) _ Sheared heads and physical tests more rigorous than those at U.S. military academies would create a hostile environment for female cadets at Virginia Military Institute, a women’s advocate contends.

``They’re poor losers,″ Karen Johnson, vice president of the National Organization for Women and a retired Air Force colonel, said Monday.

The Justice Department, which successfully sued VMI to force the state-owned school to accept women, declined to comment on VMI’s decision Saturday to admit women and hold them to the same harsh regimen as men.

VMI spokesman Mike Strickler called Ms. Johnson’s criticism unwarranted.

He said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, while finding it improper to exclude women from a state-supported college, also wrote in June that ``some women are capable of all of the individual activities required of VMI cadets.″

U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser will oversee the college’s compliance with the Supreme Court order. A hearing has not been scheduled.

VMI wants female cadets to wear the same stubbly ``buzz cuts″ as men, and perform five pullups, 60 situps in two minutes and run 1 1/2 miles in 12 minutes, just as male cadets do.

``It would be demeaning to women to cut them slack in the physical requirements,″ said Superintendent Josiah Bunting.

The Citadel, the only other public military college, adopted guidelines used at the U.S. military academies and let the four women who enrolled this fall keep some of their hair and meet slightly less rigorous physical tests.

NOW and the American Civil Liberties Union said VMI cannot be trusted to properly integrate women and needs to be closely monitored by the federal government.

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