FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, MARCH 7, 2000
TDD (202) 514-1888
UNDER AGREEMENT WITH THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Virginia Military Institute will file more expansive reports on its progress towards integrating women under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department. As part of the agreement, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Roanoke, Virginia, the United States will dismiss its appeal of the court's ruling that required only minimal reporting.
The District Court has been monitoring the progress of VMI since 1996, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Commonwealth of Virginia had violated womens' equal protection rights by allowing VMI to maintain a male-only admissions policy. Today's agreement provides that the United States will not object to the eventual dismissal of the case, if all concerns raised by the Justice Department regarding information in the reports have been satisfied and resolved by the Spring of 2001, when the first class of women graduates.
"We are very pleased that, under this agreement, VMI will be providing more complete information about its continuing efforts to assimilate women," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This agreement will provide access to the information that will allow the Court to better evaluate VMI's assimilation of women into its program, and will establish a cooperative process for the Justice Department to work with the school to resolve concerns as they arise."
Today's agreement requires the Commonwealth to file at least six reports between now and May 31, 2001. It sets out a particular format for each report, and requires information for all cadets regarding: recruitment and admissions; suspensions, resignations, and dismissals; financial aid and scholarships; gender relations, including any sexual harassment complaints; physical training; and women's varsity athletics. The first of these six reports will contain information dating back to August, 1999, the beginning of the current school year.
The Justice Department sued the Commonwealth of Virginia regarding VMI in March, 1990, asserting that the Commonwealth and VMI were discriminating on the basis of sex by maintaining a male-only admissions policy. In June 1996, the Supreme Court held that the "Constitution's equal protection guarantee precludes Virginia from reserving exclusively to men the unique educational opportunities VMI affords."
Following the Supreme Court decision, the first full class of women entered VMI in the fall of 1997. In June, 1999, the district court issued an order declining to dismiss the case, but also denying the United States' request for more detailed reporting requirements. The court ordered continued limited quarterly reports and suggested that the court retain jurisdiction at least until the first class of women freshmen graduates. The United States appealed that order in August of 1999. In September, the parties entered mediation talks, through the Fourth Circuit's mediation office, which led to today's agreement.