In an effort to retain female cadets, Virginia Military Institute recently watered down its physical-fitness standards. All cadets used to be required to do five pull-ups; now female cadets need do only one.Sad for VMI, sad for Virginia, sad for women.
Because of that change, federal investigators have dropped the physical-standards angle of their investigation into a complaint that the school discriminates against women. The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights continues to pursue other aspects of the inquiry.
The news stirred memories of the heated debate, nearly two decades ago now, over whether admitting women to VMI would require the school to relax its ferociously vigorous regimen. In arguments before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1992, Justice Department lawyer Jessica Silver insisted, "The record clearly shows that some women can do everything that is part of the physical training program at VMI."
A Times-Dispatch news article on the hearing included this exchange:
"Judge Paul Niemeyer, a member of the three-judge panel that heard arguments today . . . asked Ms. Silver whether VMI would be forced to adopt a 'twotrack' system if it admitted women . . . .
"Ms. Silver said no . . . .
"Judge Hiram Ward wondered if women were admitted to VMI under the school's current strict standards and a controversy over equal treatment arose, whether 'you'd be right back before the court, yelling "sex discrimination."'"
"Ms. Silver said no."
Hat tip OfFor via GOH.