Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What’s Left, Part II

This column was published on July 27, 1995.

No sympathy for schools fighting admission of women

The administrators at The Citadel probably should have seen it coming.
The application for admission from Shannon Faulkner to the all-male military academy in South Carolina met all the criteria — all but one, that is.
Somehow it slipped by the admissions officials that Faulkner’s application made no reference to gender. It was only after sending out notification of acceptance that school officials realized that in this case, the person with the gender-neutral name “Shannon” was in fact a Ms.
Now the state-funded school is embroiled in a costly legal battle to keep its all-male “tradition” from being defiled by the admission of a female cadet.
Enough of this nonsense! I haven’t a shred of sympathy for The Citadel or its sister outfit, The Virginia Military Institute, which finds itself in a similar predicament. The wailing and gnashing of teeth at The Citadel and VMI are amplified only because they are the oddities. Every other military school and academy went through the pains of gender integration long ago, including my alma mater, Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets.
The administrators at The Citadel and VMI (urged on no doubt by their respective alumni associations) made a poor decision years ago when they chose to ignore the dictates and direction of the U.S. Military which was then struggling to integrate women more thoroughly into its ranks at the same time that it was adjusting to the all-volunteer concept of personnel recruitment.
It makes no sense today to have a segregated military school when its purpose is to train people to be leaders in the non-segregated U.S. Military. In fact, it would seem that the cadets at these two institutions are being done a great disservice. How will graduates from these schools react to their female peers and superiors in the military when they have been indoctrinated in the belief that they cannot work with female cadets?
Texas A&M began allowing women into the Corps of Cadets in the early 1970s, although it would be years later before they would gain anything close to equal status with the male cadets. I was there to see a good portion of it in the mid-1980s.
During my freshman year in 1983, there were two all-female outfits that stayed in separate dormitories, which they shared with non-cadet female students. They had their own separate women’s drill team and could not be in the Texas Aggie Band.
But during the next three years things began to change. In 1985, a handful of female freshmen cadets joined the Aggie Band. At least one that I know of stuck it out to her senior year and she was followed by more. A female cadet from my class was the first to be admitted to the Ross Volunteers, the official honor guard for the governor of Texas. Then the women’s drill team was disbanded and even the ultra-macho Fish Drill Team was integrated.
Another female cadet from my class was the first to be elevated to the rank of Corps staff, directing operations for the entire Corps. I still remember the fretting and worrying about whether she could stay in the same dorm with the other members of Corps staff. The old Corps-style dorms had communal bathrooms and showers, two per floor, so that meant one would have to be closed off for the exclusive use of just one person.
The thing that made the biggest impression on me at the time was how efficient the military was at instituting these “big” changes once it set its mind to it. During my sophomore year the word came down from the higher ups that the term “waggie” would no longer be tolerated as a reference to the female cadets. That was final, no questions asked. To disobey at that point would mean big trouble, not because your immediate superiors were die-hard feminists, but because obeying orders regardless of what they were was tantamount to maintaining discipline.
By the time I left in 1987, the Trigon (the Aggie version of the Pentagon) was making plans to break up the two female outfits and combine them with other male outfits. Troubles did eventually develop as I surmised from reading news reports after graduating. There was at least one sexual harassment lawsuit filed, perhaps more. But the Corps survived and even thrived during this time.
The arrogance and short-sightedness of the leaders at The Citadel and VMI means that their transition will be all the more painful. The first female cadet at these institutions, be it Shannon Faulkner or someone else, will not be willing to wait 10-plus years to take full advantage of all that the school has to offer.

This column generated my first piece of “fan mail” reprinted below:

30 July 95
Mike W. Thomas (Michele?)
I read you’re editorial “No sympathy for schools fighting admission of women” 29 July 1995 i.e. The Citadel and VMI (wonderful old military schools).
It seems a lot of the Liberals, Woman’s Libers, pro queer, integrators and the like flock to the Kerrville Times.
I believe anyone, whether corporate or private club etc., should have a choice of who they want - black, women, men, queer, or what have you and no one should have to accept who they do not want!
Also, the TV is on you’re side all of commercials seem to show groups of whites and blacks buddying up to each other. Not me I befriend who I want and don’t believe in any kind of integration of blacks, women or the other creeps!
I imagine you’re patron saint is St. Francis of A-Sissy.

I hope you guys have the guts to publish this.

(Name withheld)

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