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Citadel Accepts Four Women To Previously Male Cadet Corps

By Bill Mc Allister
The Washington Post
CHARLESTON, S.C.

The Citadel formally ended 153 years of male-only education Saturday, welcoming four young women into its cadet corps and acknowledging it was bowing to "a clear message" from the Supreme Court that publicly financed single-sex education was unconstitutional.

The decision leaves Virginia Military Institute as the only publicly financed college in the nation that has refused to accept women. Unlike VMI officials, Citadel officials proclaimed they would make coeducation, which they fought more than three years, work.

"Some people read a little history, some make it," said Cadet Chad Fox, 21, the regimental athletic officer, sounding a theme Citadel officials hope will win support for the four female cadets. A year ago many of the school's 1,900 cadets erupted into raucous cheers of delight after Shannon Faulkner, ordered into The Citadel by a local federal judge, dropped out of school after a half-day.

Saturday, there were no public protests or signs of opposition as the four women registered. "I'm so happy to be here," a nervous Petra Lovetinska, who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., told Acting Citadel President R. Clifton Poole shortly after she arrived on a scholarship from the school's Washington alumni. "I feel like I'm in a dream. I'm afraid I might wake up."

Lovetinska, whose father works for the Czech Embassy, was to be housed with three other women - Nancy Mace of suburban Charleston, daughter of a retired Army general; Jeanie M. Mentavlos of Charlotte, N.C., a former finalist in The Citadel's homecoming court whose brother is a Citadel senior; and Kim Messer of Clover, S.C., daughter of a retired Army master sergeant. They will live in a dorm that has been renovated to accommodate women.

All four were described by Citadel officials as outstanding high school athletes whom Fox said could outlast the average male freshman in the rigorous physical training that forced Faulkner to quit.

Poole said of Faulkner, "That is the past," and predicted cadets will accept the women because the school's board changed admission policy after the Supreme Court made clear on June 26 it would not tolerate single-sex education at a public college. Asked to explain the board's reversal, Citadel Chairman Jimmy Jones said, "It's part of our training: Number One, you don't break the law."

Even so, the state-supported school's willing acceptance of female students two months after the court rejected VMI's arguments for its male-only policy still has some of The Citadel's critics amazed. "It's incredible that it is happening, but it's incredible that it has taken so long," said Deanna Caveny, a spokesperson for 52%, a local women's group that stood a support vigil outside the school's main gate.

The scene around the white castle-like buildings that sit on the edge of the Ashley River was in sharp contrast to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, where some VMI administrators and students cling to the hope that alumni may raise enough money to buy the school and retain its all-male status as a private school.

Saturday The Citadel staged a carefully orchestrated effort to portray the arrival of women as routine.