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Three More Want to Join Legal Challenge to Citadel, Lawyers Say

By Debbi Wilgoren
The Washington Post

Three more South Carolina women want to join the legal challenge to The Citadel's all-male admissions policy, according to lawyers for Shannon Faulkner, the 20-year-old who dropped out of the institution last week after attending only one day.

The lawyers said they expect to file papers in U.S. District Court this week on behalf of at least one of the women. They hope to have several plaintiffs so the women can lend each other moral support in court and - if they win - on campus, said attorney Robert R. Black.

"That's how The Citadel was able to deal with Shannon Faulkner, by isolating her as an individual," said Black, noting that the first coed class at West Point in 1976 included 120 women. "My own feeling is that we'll need a handful of hardy pioneers here."

School officials said they will fight the addition of any plaintiffs to the lawsuit, which is scheduled for a November trial to determine if a planned women's leadership program at another school is a suitable alternative to admitting women to the state-sponsored Citadel.

Faulkner, whose original victory in the lawsuit was appealed by the school, was allowed to become a cadet this month after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it was unfair to make her wait for a verdict in the November lawsuit. She originally wanted to enroll at the school in 1993.

Noting that all women will have the right to apply to The Citadel if the school loses in November, Citadel lawyer Dawes Cooke Jr. said there was no reason for more women to join the suit.

School spokesman Terrence Leedom accused Faulkner's lawyers of "trying to make sure they eventually get their fees, because right now, they're without a client."

But Val Vojdik, a New York city lawyer who is on Faulkner's team, said women who do not sign onto the lawsuit could be barred from next year's freshman class if The Citadel loses in November, then appeals.

"They're not going to open their doors. They're going to appeal this thing all the way to the Supreme Court," Vojdik said. "It could take another two years and in the meantime, these young women are being discriminated against."

The judge in the case has not ruled on a motion filed by Faulkner's lawyers months ago to make the case a class action.

The woman most likely to apply this week to become a plaintiff is a 20-year-old student at another South Carolina college who has been involved in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps on her campus, Faulkner's lawyers said. They would not describe the other women.

School officials say they have mailed information on the school to about 200 women in the past two years, but that only two have applied. Both those applicants are on hold pending the outcome of the court case, Leedom said.

Faulkner arrived on campus 11 days ago with nearly 600 other first-year students, and moved her uniforms and other belongings into what normally would have been a two-person room in Law Barracks. Two days later, on the first day of the orientation session cadets call "Hell Week," she was admitted to the infirmary with four other first-year students who became ill in the sweltering heat.

Faulkner stayed in the infirmary until Friday, then called her parents to say she wanted to go home. She said she was defeated not by the rigors of Hell Week, but by the emotional rollercoaster she'd been on since applying to the school without revealing her sex 2 1/2 years ago.