The Citadel & VMI - Female Cadets

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by Candidate Dad, Jan 19, 2010.

  1. Candidate Dad

    Candidate Dad New Member

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    My daughter is currently in her Junior year in high school and is interested in attending either the USMA or another top senior military college. She attended Norwich University's Future Leader Camp last summer and thought it was amazing. She is interested in the full-time cadet experience in college. Her other top choices are VMI and The Citadel although she has not visited either yet. My question concerns the overall experience for a female cadet at those two institutions. How accepting is the environment? Any input you have would be appreciated. Thank you.
     
  2. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    I'm bumping this along in hopes that RahVaMil will post a response here. She is a 2009 grad and can give you an excellent womens eye view of life as a Female Cadet at VMI.
     
  3. Faulconer

    Faulconer New Member

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    As long as she puts out at the Citadel she shouldn't have any problems with her being a female. She will bond with her classmates just as the males do. From my Knob experience so far, she will experience some form of sexism, and I'm sure it's the same at VMI. However, if she's strong she'll make it through knob year a completely new and improved person as a whole.
     
  4. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Candidate Dad: I am bumping this up because I believe RahVaMil is back on the net and I know that she can talk extensively about this subject. While my belief is that VMI has long since gotten past the battles of 15-20 years ago with Women at the school but truthfully I have no direct experience from the standpoint of a woman or as the father of one- so all I can do is tell you that I believe that both the Institute and the Cadets have really done a good job and continue to work at making VMI an inclusive environment for the women there while making as few changes as possible to the heart of the experience. From the outside looking in- I believe they have really taken this to heart and the result has been an improved VMI all around. But RVM really can give you the perspective of someone who has lived this experience.
     
  5. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    I can't post much at this time as I'm only on my lunch break from work (oh, the real world!!!). During my First Class year I completed my Leadership Studies minor capstone project on the process of changing organizational culture, using coeducation at VMI as a case study. I'll make a longer post discussing some of my personal experiences later, but for now I'll share the dedication section of my research paper. I think the dedications in and of themselves provide insight into being a woman at VMI.

    Dedications
    To the men of the Old Corps, who worked hard over 157 years to create and uphold the traditions and values that have made and continue to make VMI what it is – honor, duty, loyalty, physical strength, moral courage, the ring, the ratline, the Brotherhood. It is you, gentlemen, who made VMI what it is, so that women might see what you had and one day desire to share that experience with you.

    To the women of the Old Corps, who fought the early battles both inside and outside of barracks, so that someday long after you had graduated, the women who came after you could actually feel like part of the Corps of Cadets and truly feel accepted into the Brotherhood.

    To the Class of 2009, for staying true to yourselves, and for choosing to learn from the mistakes of those who went before us, to leave VMI a better place than how we found it. Many of you took it upon yourselves to help improve civility within the Corps, regardless of gender, race, religion or other form of cultural diversity. I am proud of you, Brother Rats—and I am proud to be esteemed as your Brother Rat.

    To the Class of 2012, our legacy. May you be better than we were.
     
  6. Candidate Dad

    Candidate Dad New Member

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    Thank you Rah, your comments are much appreciated. The more she has learned about VMI over the past few weeks, the more confident she has become that she can be successful there.
     
  7. Kernal D

    Kernal D Member

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    Norwich University

    No...say it isn't so...not one of our Future Leader Camp participants! :eek:

    That's OK...no matter where she goes...it will be a great experience!
     
  8. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    In order to understand how far the Corps has come in accepting women at VMI, you really only need to wrap your mind around two things: terminology, and ring size.

    First of all, women are Brother Rats, too. One of the greatest insults you can render a VMI woman is to refer to her as a "sister rat," because it implies that she is not part of the Brotherhood. It has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with relationship. I had trouble explaining this to a female cadet I met from one of the service academies. She told me that the male cadets were like her "big brothers," because they took care of her as they did their little sisters. At VMI, I was one of the guys. They took care of me as they took care of their brothers. We take great pride in being called "Brother Rats."

    Second, there is no "women's ring." This was another thing I struggled in explaining to my colleague from the service academy. She asked me if they had women's sizes. I explained that they do have a 7pwt version, but that's reserved for dates and mothers. We go through the same BS the men do, so we want the same ring. Men and women alike can choose from 44pwt, 40pwt, 36pwt, and 28pwt. I wanted the 44, but when it came time to order my ring, I realized the 44 looked ridiculous on me because it was disproportionate with the size on my hand. Proportionately, the 36 on my hand looked like the 44 some of my closest male friends were sporting.

    It's all about mindset. Women who are successful at VMI are those who are drawn to it for the same reason men are: the Honor System, camaraderie, tradition, challenge, discipline, to become better people and other intangibles. If they're looking for the same things, they automatically have stuff in common with the men, which means they've already taken the first steps to being accepted by their peers. If they're going to try to make a statement, to get an MRS. degree or if they go in looking for special treatment, they're only setting themselves up to not be accepted by men or women.

    When VMI went to gender-normed standards on the VMI Fitness Test last year, the women were far more outraged than the men. The common battle cry was, "I may not have been able to pass the VFT, but there are plenty of men who can't pass it, either. At least we were all held to the same standards." While I'm sure it was not unanimous, all the men in my class that I spoke with supported the change wholeheartedly. I'm sure much of this was the fact that we were First Classmen by the time the change came. Many of them were getting ready to commission. One of my male Brother Rats summed up the general feeling by telling me, "All the military branches have different standards for men and women. It's about time VMI got with the program."

    If she's a junior right now, she'll be a rat when the Class of 2012 is running barracks as the First Class. If you're interested, shoot me a private message with some information about what she'd like to do (major, ROTC branch, sports, etc.) and I can get you in touch with some female cadets who can help answer any specific questions she has.

    In the meantime, if you can, I would highly recommend getting out to VMI for one of the open houses. It's really good that she had a chance to attend the FLC at Norwich. Nothing can replace the experience of actually visiting a college to see what it's like in real life. I would recommend getting in for the earliest open house available (September/October). The newer the rats are to the Ratline, the more they can paint a picture of what your daughter will experience if she ultimately decides to go to the I. After they've been there a couple months the rats will have settled in and adjusted (as much as anyone can). After a while, rats begin to see it as the game that it truly is. That's not to say that they won't still be telling Ratline stories, but they won't have the deer-in-headlights outlook, either. :smile:

    Please let me know if you have any more specific questions about gender equality and what it's like to be a woman at VMI. My work schedule is crazy, but I'm going to work harder to make it a point to visit this site more frequently.

    Good luck,

    Jackie M. Briski
    VMI Class of 2009
    First Class PVT (Ret.)
     
  9. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    As a female USNA grad, I found the above extremely interesting. Two points . . . . I think a female SA grad could order a man's ring if she wanted to -- never heard there was any prohibition. However, as you point out, it's so large that it would look ridiculous on the hands of most women. Women at USNA can opt for a woman's ring or the miniature (for wives, etc.). Some female grads do choose the latter b/c they have really small hands. Only female grads can order the woman's ring.

    As an aside, a very interesting situation occurred a number of years ago when a female grad wanted to order a "husband's ring" for her non-grad husband. USNA didn't know what to do. Finally, they allowed her to order a regular man's ring. It created a lot of angst but there weren't a lot of other options. Personally, I think they should make him wear the miniature ring. . . .:yllol:

    Second, the issue of gender norming physical standards is an interesting one. The SAs have always done it that way, although some standards (e.g., crunches) are the same. Personally, I think it's the right approach -- after all, men and women don't compete against each other in track & field at the Olympics and yet I don't think I'd argue they aren't in equally good shape. The one exception, IMO, is if the job requires a certain level of strength, speed, endurance, etc. (e.g., SEALs). In that case, the standard should be the standard, regardless of gender.

    The above said, I do understand why changing the standard would have infuriated most of the women . . . :rolleyes:
     
  10. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    I love this! I agree... they should have made him get the date ring. :thumb:

    I spoke with a lady who graduated from USMA in the early '80s, and she told me she was glad to see that VMI let women choose their ring size. When she was at USMA, women were required to get a smaller ring. She said that many of the men had their rings engraved on the inside with, "Yes it was." In years to come, whenever they caught themselves saying, "Oh, it wasn't that bad," they'd have a constant reminder that Yes, it was. :smile: She wanted that engraving, but the women's ring only had space enough for four characters. She smiled and said, "But then again, I can think of several four-letter words that could be used to describe West Point."

    Another ring story... during my Second Class year, the Class of 2003 came back for their five-year reunion. I was standing by one of the arches (an entrance to barracks) with one of my male BRs, waiting for our ride to pick us up. I said, "Dude, I just saw something I've never seen before. A young couple just walked by. He was wearing a VMI sweatshirt, but she was the one wearing the ring! He didn't have one! I think she was the Alum in the relationship!" My BR said, "Man, I'd feel like a b****." I was quiet for a moment, and then I said, "Dan, now you understand just a little bit better what it's like to be a VMI woman. It's incredibly difficult to find a man confident enough in himself to date a woman who went to a tougher school than he did."

    The fact that VMI was the only military school in the nation that held women to the same physical standards as men was a huge selling point for me back in high school. But the #1 thing most cadets/midshipmen lack, IMNSHO, is perspective. I think I understand that issue much more clearly now... and believe it or not, I'm very thankful that the VMI administration had the accidental wisdom to work the changes on the timeline that they did.

    It was a tough battle in court, but it wasn't nearly as brutal (and personal) as the court battle fought by The Citadel since our case was not based on one woman suing the Institute. There was no name and face to go with the fight to change the system. VMI was also very fortunate in that we were the last of all SAs/SMCs to go coed. We had 30 years' worth of SA successes and mistakes to learn from, and the bloodbath that was Shannon Faulkner's arrival at El Cid was still very fresh in everyone's minds. The Supreme Court granted VMI a full year to plan and prepare, as opposed to the ruling in Ms. Faulkner's personal lawsuit (but not the class action suit fighting for all women to be admitted) just six weeks prior to her matriculation. This gave the VMI administration a chance to fall back and regroup before leading the charge, so to speak.

    The basic mentality of the VMI administration and the Assimilation Committee was that any woman who wanted to come to VMI was clearly looking for the VMI experience. While many believed that the coming of women would destroy the very essence of VMI (meaning those same women would destroy the VMI experience the moment they arrived to become part of it), they resolved to maintain as much of the Ratline and other unique aspects of the VMI experience as they could those first few years. Some outside observers interpreted this to be VMI throwing a temper tantrum, saying, "You can make us admit women, but you can't make us change our ways!" But in reality, it gave considerably less ammo to the detractors. Yes, as time goes on and various issues arise, many changes have been put in place to improve civility within the Corps. But this has largely been to the benefit of male cadets, as well as females.

    USMA did a short-term longitudinal study on their journey to coeducation called Project Athena. One of the things clearly stated in the first report was that the gender norming of the USMA PT test became a rallying point for the men who were opposed to coeducation. From the get go, they were able to argue (amongst themselves, at any rate) that women didn't belong at West Point because clearly they couldn't even meet the standards. In their minds, women were already weakening the USMA system and they'd barely even arrived.

    I do not share that research finding by any means to bash West Point or any of the men trained there. It's actually a great example of what I consider to be one of the greatest challenges all cadets and mids face: trying to live life and learn how to lead when you lack perspective. I saw it day after day for four years at the Institute... cadets have so much going on in their daily lives that they have no choice but to place their focus on the moment they're livin' in, even as they dream of the future (Breakout, Ring Figure, graduation, etc.). They're so caught up in the minutia of day-to-day life that they fail to maintain a focus on the big picture. They can't (or won't) think far enough beyond themselves to realize that having different physical standards is not proving the point that men are better than women, nor is it creating inherently unfair double standards. It's creating standards and expectations that make sense according to very simple principles of biology and physiology. In fact, it's good leadership, in that the leaders are not setting a certain subgroup of their followers up for failure.

    Cadets in general - regardless of where they are - tend to have a very low tolerance for ambiguity. Change is inherently evil, no matter how small. While this certainly isn't the case for all cadets in all cadet programs (I'd like to think that I did a fairly good job of accepting change), I base it on 8.5 years as a cadet in three different cadet programs, as well as my admittedly limited experience (roughly 7.5 months) being an adult leader at a military high school.

    Had VMI gone to a gender normed VFT in the early years, I think it would have taken longer for the standards to have been accepted as "fair" by the Corps at large. In fact, I think it would have been a major hindrance to the acceptance of women at VMI. The PE Department had 10 years' worth of VFT statistics to be able to explain it to the male cadets. When LTC Funkhouser (Cadet Government Advisor) asked a few male cadets if they thought it would be fair to create a standard that would affect GPA and the rank selection process that only 20% of the black cadets could pass while 80%+ of the white cadets could, they understood why gender norming was important. :smile: If it hadn't been for actual statistics, the fact the initial resistance to women had largely blown over and the fact that many male cadets were questioning why VMI's standards were so different from those of the real military, the gender norming of the VFT would have only served to ostracize women even more from their male counterparts.

    That said, I noticed something special in my First Class year at VMI. While cadets will always complain that the Ratline gets easier and easier every year (for all that changes, somethings never do!), they no longer openly blame it on the coming of women. They'll complain all day long that "these rats suck" and "they're so weak" and "they'll report anything as hazing." But upperclassmen complain just as much about male rats who don't live up to their expectations as they do the females, and they no longer seem to openly blame the "weakening" of the Ratline on women in particular. I think much of this stems from the fact that while the changes that have been made to the Ratline in the past 5-8 years or so have been quite drastic, they were made gradually, so it couldn't all be pinned on female cadets.

    It also really helps when Alumni like Bruno come back to visit and tell the cadets that they think the Ratline is actually run better now than it was back in their day. Cadets always expect Alums to tell them Old Corps stories about how much tougher they had it back in the days of sanctioned beatings. They don't expect so much to hear Alums saying, "Hey, it's a lot more organized now, and it seems to be more like real military training. There's better training for Cadre and RDC, so the Ratline is more professional now." This certainly seems to be the message and influence my rat's dad (Class of '76), Bruno (Class of '80) and one of his other BRs are having on the Class of 2012 as they talk with the BRs of their kids and the Cadre who trained them. It was also mentioned in the Class of '82 Class Notes column in the most recent edition of the Alumni Review. An exact quotation: "Progress at the Institute! What a concept!" :smile:

    Jackie M. Briski
    VMI Class of 2009
    First Class PVT (Ret.)
     
  11. TurkishRunner

    TurkishRunner Member

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    really interesting posts
     
  12. tamss13

    tamss13 New Member

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    thanks for the insight

    My daughter is strongly looking at Citadel as she fell in love with AFA when they were recruiting her, but she did not get her ACT test in time. Does anyone has insight to Citadel?

    All I have been able to find is Alumni complaining about women and no insight.

    I was an Army Warrant Officer so I understand the military experience, but just wanted some insight to the Citadel experience from a woman's perspective
     
  13. tamss13

    tamss13 New Member

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    Thanks

    Since we are almost to Thanksgiving the first major break for a knob....I have to say Citadel was the best choice for her. She seems to have adjusted and the calling home and complaining has come to and end....knock on wood....I would like to thank everyone that gave insight and helped us understand a little of what Citadel is about......

    thanks to Everyone that provided information and especially the women grads that called and talked with her. Thanks allot
     
  14. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Great posts here. My DS is currently a rat at VMI. He says that the women at vmi are pretty much treated like everyone else, the VFT norming notwithstanding Indeed the culture and the group dynamics appear to be very powerful and the same for both sexes. for example: If you abuse the gimp people will think less of you regardless of your sex The BR system is really rather amazing The women are expected to hold up their end and they do. Of course the women at VMI are special if you consult Playboys list of party schools they advise that the women at VMI can kick a## so be careful. :yllol:
     
  15. Keydet

    Keydet Member

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    Ha--the GIM

    The "gimp" is a character from Pulp Fiction.
     
  16. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Ha, indeed. Sorry about that.
     
  17. HMQ

    HMQ Member

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    The "Gim"

    For those who may not know the origin of the phrase "on the gim", here is the story from the February 24, 1912 edition of the VMI student newspaper, The Cadet:

     
  18. bob80q

    bob80q bob80q Banned

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    do I detect a little pro VMI sentiment here Bruno?
     
  19. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    No - what you detect is VMI cadets and alums posting and not many Citadel cadets and alums posting. If you have something to add - the OP asked about Females at the Citadel as well so feel free to post about your experiences.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012

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