Thirteen women will graduate in the class of 2001 from the formerly all-male Virginia Military Institute (VMI) after four years of grueling physical and mental challenges and not-always-equal treatment from their classmates. VMI was the nation’s last public military school for men. With this year’s class, a total of 30 women will have graduated from the institution, having endured the same treatment as men in many ways – shaved heads, standardized uniforms. But women cadets have had to endure the sexist taunts and attitudes that still pervade VMI. “This institution still incubates a lot of resentment toward women,” says VMI cadet Kendra Russell. Megan Smith, another VMI cadet, notes, “One guy came up to me and said, ‘Get out of my school.'”
Established in 1839, VMI refused to admit women even after other military schools began to do so in the 1970s and 80s. It took a Supreme Court ruling to force VMI to admit women. Ted Olson, President Bush’s nominee for Solicitor General, unsuccessfully argued that case on behalf of VMI and its policy of sex discrimination. Olson’s nomination is being considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where his role in the American Spectator’s “Arkansas Project” is under investigation.