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EDITORIAL AT LARGE
THE FALL OF SINGLE GENDER EDUCATION
Many people in the country have been closely following the ongoing legal battles between the ACLU, the U.S. Justice Department, and two colleges, The Citadel and The Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Although I admit that I have no formal legal training, I do have some concerns with the arguments of the organizations challenging the last two male colleges left in the country.
The Justice Department and the ACLU have argued that since The Citadel and VMI accept public assistance, their selective admissions policy violates the constitutional rights of women to attend those schools under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In the case of Snowden V. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1 (1944) however, The United States Supreme Court determined that not every denial of a right because of a state's actions or laws involves a denial of Equal Protection. Even in the case where the denial of a right to one person occurs while giving it to another, an intentional discriminatory purpose to favor one class of individuals over another must be present to establish a denial of protection. This discriminatory purpose must also be clearly shown and may not be assumed. In the case of The Citadel, are we to believe that the State of South Carolina favors its male citizens over its female? This idea appears ridiculous when you consider that the State gave over 10 million dollars last year under the tuition grants program to female students attending private colleges, with over 2 and a half million going to students attending private all-female colleges in the state.
The Citadel and VMI are also under full compliance of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, which prohibits federal funding of schools, public or private, which maintains discriminatory admission policies. Public colleges which traditionally and continuously from their establishment have had a policy of single gender admission are expressly exempt from the admission requirements of this act. Educational institutions whose primary purpose is the training of individuals for the military service are also exempt.
What the ACLU, The Justice Department, and even the press have failed to mention is that all schools (public and private) accept some form of public assistance, including over 80 all-female institutions located throughout the country. This support includes money from federal and state grants as well as tax exemption status. This status precludes them from paying property taxes on buildings, land, and goods as well as income tax, and taxes on donations and contributions.
If in fact The Citadel's and VMI's admission policies are unconstitutional because they accept public assistance, the selective admission policies of any organization that receives public support should be equally unconstitutional. Some of the organizations I question include all-female colleges, The United Negro College Fund, and minority-only colleges located throughout the country. But why stop there? It seems to me that the selective admission policies of The Girls Scouts of America are equally discriminatory.
The ACLU would argue that the other organizations that I am questioning are not "public" but "private" and therefore are within the law. Are they not still receiving public assistance? The ACLU has refused to represent me in seeking admission to an all-female school in South Carolina named Columbia College, which in 1991-92 received almost 3 million dollars from both the state and federal government. A certified letter to Janet Reno at the U.S. Justice Department complaining of sexual discrimination that was sent in March remains unanswered. Are my rights any less important simply because I am male?
An interesting comparison can be drawn to this debate over "public" versus "private." During desegregation in the 1960's, there were many "private" restaurants in the South who would serve whites only. The owners of these establishments claimed that since they were private businesses, they had the right to determine who they would and would not serve. The federal government obviously thought differently with the passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title II of this act effectively says that a business that uses the interstate commerce system may not engage in any discriminatory acts. While these "white-only" establishments were private businesses, they used public roads to transport their supplies. In addition, their employees and customers used public roads to travel to and from the establishment. This use of public property made it unlawful to discriminate against the general public. While Title II only pertains to public accommodations, the Interstate Commerce clause of The Constitution covers all organizations that make use of the interstate commerce system. My next question is: Don't all institutions make use of public roads in transporting goods and supplies to and from the organization? Of course they do.
It is my personal belief that these single gender organizations and institutions, including The Citadel, VMI, and all-female and minority-only colleges serve a purpose. They provide a unique educational alternative and help preserve the individuality of this great country. If however, the government decides that one group does not have the right to exist, then this should affect all of the other organizations for the exact same reason. Then again, The Citadel and VMI do not have the power of a special interest group smoke-screening their admission policies. Maybe there needs to be a special interest group to protect the rights of men. We could call it NORMAL (National Organization for Regular Males At Large).
Patrick H. Simmons Charleston, South Carolina
Telephone during the day (803) 577-8761