A FEDERAL appeals court decision announced last Thursday seemed to open the way for Shannon Faulkner to be the first full-fledged female cadet at The Citadel.
But she's not there yet.
In a 2-to-1 ruling, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that The Citadel must admit Ms. Faulkner to the corps of cadets or come up with an alternative ''military style'' training program for women by August.
The court said it was unlikely that the school could have such a program in place by then, but the school's lawyer, Dawes Cooke, said that an alternative program is in the works. ''I like to think we're in good position to meet the court's requirements'' to have a program in place by August, he has been quoted as saying.
August is a significant deadline, because Faulkner will begin her junior year at The Citadel then. Shut out of military training and extracurricular activities while her lawsuit against the school has been pending, she has been attending ''day'' classes so far; but under school rules, the start of her junior year is her last opportunity to get into the corps of cadets.
The Citadel, in Charleston, S.C., admitted Shannon Faulkner in 1993 but rescinded the offer when it was discovered that she is a woman, whereupon she sued on grounds of discrimination.
In a similar case in Virginia, courts have approved the steps taken by the all-male, state-supported Virginia Military Institute to set up a military-style program for women at Mary Baldwin College rather than admit women.
The Citadel, also state-supported, has proposed spending $5 million -- of whose money? we have to ask -- to set up an alternative program for women at one of South Carolina's two private women's colleges. But so far neither has agreed publicly to take part.
Judge Kenneth Hall wrote that the Citadel and VMI cases have to do with ''wealth, power, and the ability of those who have it now to determine who will have it later.'' Dissenting, Judge Clyde Hamilton wrote, ''I cannot accept the majority's invitation to be a party to the destruction of a venerable institution ....''
We have to hope for the defeat of this rear-guard effort to resist doing something that the federal service academies have done for nearly 20 years; that is, admit women.