Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

About Face: All-Male Virginia Academy Quick-Times Female Applicants to Women's College

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

About Face: All-Male Virginia Academy Quick-Times Female Applicants to Women's College

Article excerpt

About Face: All-male Virginia Academy Quick-Times Female Applicants to. Women's College

by Linda L. Meggett

HAMPTON, VA -- Christina Arellano White never wanted to attend the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). But she requested that her Scholastic Aptitude Test scores be sent to the all-male military college just to see what would happen.

It was, ironically, a move that may have paved the way for her to receive a virtually free education at the Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership (VWIL) program at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA.

The 17-year-old didn't realize what kind of ripple effect her action would have on her educational future. Although she mailed several other colleges her SAT scores, VMI was the first to respond. In the letter, the Hampton, VA, high school senior was told that the VMI admissions policy considers men only. The letter also mentioned the newly created leadership program at Mary Baldwin, and then, like a flash, four days later the youngster received a letter from the private women's college inviting her to apply for admission.

The Commonwealth of Virginia established a leadership program last year at Mary Baldwin designed specifically to keep women out of VMI in Lexington. The Fourth Circuit U.S.Court of Appeals has ruled that the program is constitutional and that it does not violate women's rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

The same court has given South Carolina a chance to implement a similar program for women who are interested in a military-style education at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, might be the women's college with which South Carolina strikes a deal for a similar leadership program. Officials at Columbia College, a United Methodist Church-affiliated women's college in the state capital, have said that such a program would interfere with the school's mission.

Where the Boys Aren't

VMI and The Citadel are the nation's only state-supported, allmale military colleges. Both have been involved in legal battles that challenge their admissions policies. Shannon Faulkner of Powdersville, SC, sued The Citadel and, presently, she is attending day classes with cadets while her case proceeds through the judicial process. South Carolina has until August to implement an alternative plan to sending women to The Citadel -- otherwise, Faulkner must be admitted to the Corps of Cadets.

Meanwhile, White, an Asian American, has been accepted into the VWIL program at Mary Baldwin. She was also accepted at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

But Mary Baldwin conducted an intensive campaign to recruit White and Shannon Baylis of Virginia Beach, a 17-year-old Hispanic student. They are the only two minority students who were accepted and have paid their deposits. Three other minorities have been accepted, but have not paid deposits. There are no African-American students.

"At first I thought they were bugging me because they were calling and writing all the time," White said. "But then I realized they really wanted me to come there."

Mary Baldwin appeals to her because it's an all-female college and she won't be distracted. "I'm very competitive and this will be a challenge. And I wanted to stay in Virginia," said White, who wants to be an environmental engineer. Her mother, Bernarbita White, likes the idea that Mary Baldwin is for women.

"There are not too many boys."

Family Tradition

White is interested in the VWIL program to gain leadership skills she will need in the real world, she said. "But I don't want to go in the military or anything." Her goal is to attend Mary Baldwin, then transfer to Virginia Tech or VCU because Mary Baldwin doesn't offer the engineering degree she wants.

At the same time White was sending off applications, Baylis was searching for a small, or women's, college that would be affordable for her parents. …

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