Local News

Mellette Accepted By West Point Prep School

Posted April 15, 1996

— April 16, 1996 - 5:08 p.m. EDTBy BRUCE SMITH,Associated Press Writer

Nancy Mellette, the high school senior who hoped to march at The Citadel this fall, will instead be marching at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School in New Jersey.

But she's not waving the white flag in her federal court challenge of The Citadel's all-male admissions policy.

Ms. Mellette, who attends Oak Ridge Military Academy, a North Carolina prep school, will remain part of the lawsuit against The Citadel, her family and her attorney said Monday.

Ms. Mellette was nominated to West Point last year by U.S. Sen. Ernest ``Fritz'' Hollings, D-S.C.

A statement released by her father, Citadel graduate J. Bland Mellette, said she was offered an appointment to the one-year program at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School.

The deadline for accepting was Monday and Ms. Mellette decided to enroll ``since neither the Supreme Court nor the South Carolina District Court has made a decision pertinent to her situation.''

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this spring on a similar legal challenge to the all-male corps at Virginia Military Institute, the nation's only other state-supported all-male military college.

That court decision could determine whether women march at The Citadel.

Mellette said his daughter will continue as a plaintiff in the lawsuit because ``she believes that qualified women should be allowed the opportunity of attending The Citadel.''

Students who successfully complete the Military Academy Preparatory School program and meet academy physical standards may enroll at West Point the following year, said academy spokeswoman Andrea Hamburger.

She said the Fort Monmouth, N.J., school is for students whose records do not totally meet academy standards but who have shown they are the type of student who could succeed at West Point.

Ms. Mellette, who is from Irmo, was allowed last year to take Shannon Faulkner's place in The Citadel lawsuit.

Ms. Faulkner became the first female cadet at The Citadel last summer, but dropped out after less than a week, citing the stress from her lengthy court fight and her isolation as the only female cadet.

Val Vojdik, who represents Ms. Mellette, said her client's decision to enroll at the New Jersey school won't affect her standing in the lawsuit. It's a one-year commitment and Ms. Mellette could decide to attend The Citadel next year.

The U.S. Justice Department also remains a plaintiff.

Ms. Mellette told reporters in September that attending The Citadel would be appealing for several reasons: She wants to study engineering, the school is in her home state, and she would have no military obligation after graduation.

Ms. Vojdik said it was not unusual for a plaintiff trying to get into one college to enroll in another while the suit was in the courts.

``It's unrealistic to expect people are going to suspend their lives during the pendency of a case. It took Shannon Faulkner 2-1/2 years from the time she filed suit until the time she could get into the corps of cadets,'' she said.

Ms. Vojdik said nearly 300 women have inquired about attending The Citadel since Ms. Faulkner left last summer.

``If anything, women are not giving up the ship,'' she said.

The Citadel has four active applications from women, including Ms. Mellette's, college officials said last week.

Citadel attorney Dawes Cooke agreed that Ms. Mellette's decision will likely have little impact on the litigation.

``At this point, it would probably make no difference,'' he said. ``Obviously when Shannon Faulkner was in the case, the remedy carved out for her (admission to the corps) was different than in VMI, where the Justice Department was a party.'' Copyright ©1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.

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