Citadel faces another battle in defense of all-male tradition

The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. The next woman who wants to march in the all-male corps at The Citadel is a military academy student and star athlete who has a brother in the college and a father who is an alumnus.

Nancy Mellette, a 17-year-old senior at a North Carolina military boarding school, is asking to intervene in the Shannon Faulkner case, according to federal court papers filed yesterday by lawyers who also represented Faulkner in her quest to become a cadet.

Mellette wants to join The Citadel in the fall of 1996.

''I think she could do the physical part of it ... but I'm not too sure how they would treat her,'' Catherine Mellette, her twin sister, said outside the family home in suburban Columbia.

Her mother, Connie, said she admired her daughter for ''having the courage to even try to take this step.''

Faulkner fought a 2 1/2-year court battle to become a cadet at the state-supported military college. She became ill during the day of rigorous training known as ''hell week'' and quit five days later, saying the stress of the court battle and her isolation at the college threatened her health.

South Carolina Attorney General Charles Condon said he would fight Ms. Mellette's bid.

''Obviously they're very adept at public relations,'' he said of the women's lawyers. ''They've taken a bath in public relations and they've gotten a new and improved model.''

Mellette is a second lieutenant in the Oak Ridge Military Academy corps of cadets, court papers said. She is on the cross-country, track, basketball and softball teams. Calls to Oak Ridge administrators to get comment from her were not returned.

Lawyer Val Vojdik would not say whether Mellette had approached the lawyers or they approached her after Faulkner dropped out.

Mellette has not yet applied to The Citadel, the school said. Her brother, a senior and captain at the college, did not return a call to his barracks room. Her father, James B. Mellette Jr., graduated from The Citadel in 1963, according to a school yearbook.

Mellette must intervene to have a say in the November trial of a women's leadership program that South Carolina has proposed as a way to prevent women from breaking the all-male tradition at The Citadel, Vojdik said.

Twenty-two students arrived at private Converse College in Spartanburg on Wednesday to begin the first year of the South Carolina Institute of Leadership for Women.

In Virginia, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has approved a similar program set up by the Virginia Military Institute, the nation's only other state-supported, all-male military college. The women's program began last week at Mary Baldwin College.

The Justice Department, which is challenging all-male admission policies at The Citadel and VMI, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the separate-but-equal program at Mary Baldwin unconstitutional.

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