VMI Agrees to Create Women's Program : Education: All-male military school to comply with court order and spend $6.9 million to set up curriculum at nearby all-women's campus.

from Associated Press

The all-male Virginia Military Institute announced Saturday that it will create a program for women at a private college to comply with a federal court order.

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the state-supported college last October to either admit women, go private or establish a program for women elsewhere.

The program approved by the VMI Board of Visitors will be established by the VMI Foundation, the Lexington, Va., school's private fund-raising arm, at a cost of $6.9 million. The state would subsidize a portion of the Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership at Mary Baldwin College, but details have not been worked out.

"The state of Virginia is going to get the best bargain you've ever seen," said Harvey S. Sadow, chairman of the VMI board.

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said he supports the plan, which will go to U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser in Roanoke, Va., on Monday. Kiser, who upheld VMI's admissions policy in June, 1991, will hold a hearing on the new plan at a later date.

The faculty at Mary Baldwin College approved the plan 52 to 8 on Friday. The college, in Staunton, Va., has an enrollment of about 650 with room for about 100 to 150 more, officials said. Wilder said no more than 50 women per year are expected to enroll in the program.

Sadow said he is confident that the plan will be approved.

"I believe it is fully responsive to the requirements imposed on us by the 4th Circuit," he said.

The U.S. Justice Department, which challenged VMI's policy on behalf of a northern Virginia woman, could oppose the plan. Justice Department officials have said that VMI, which has about 1,200 students, should be forced to admit women.

Wilder said the plan "does not propose a superficial separate-but-equal program."

"Rather, it creates a family of Virginia military academies, with a sister program at Mary Baldwin College that provides a training program as unique in character for women as the VMI program does for men," he said.

Wilder, the nation's first black elected governor, added that he would not support any program that he believed to be discriminatory.

At the center of the program will be the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

The program will provide some of the same military leadership training men now receive at VMI, but it will not have some of the more rigorous and adversarial components of the men's program.

"The plan departs from these extreme adversative aspects of the VMI program for this educationally compelling reason: Without such departures, the program would attract fewer female students and would benefit them less," according to a statement in the 20-page plan.

Mary Baldwin College President Cynthia Tyson said the college had been considering establishing a leadership program anyway. Affiliating with VMI and getting $6.9 million should speed the process, she said.

"There is a wonderful opportunity now for something unique in support of women," she said.

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