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Archivist: MUW case set the tone for gender integration


Neal Wagner



COLUMBUS -- Although relatively unknown outside the area, a 1980 Mississippi University for Women gender integration lawsuit has heavily impacted higher education across the country, according to Columbus-Lowndes Public Library Archivist Mona Vance. 


The case rarely is credited for setting a gender discrimination precedent for colleges and universities across the nation, Joe Hogan''s lawsuit against MUW may have been one of the most important education-related cases of the past few decades, Vance explained. 


"This case did not occur in a vacuum; it was important for universities all over the country," Vance said Thursday night as she spoke as part of an MUW Honors Forum series at the MUW Nissan Auditorium. "I just thought this would be an excellent opportunity to educate people about the importance of this case." 


Hogan, now deceased, in 1981 became the first male student to enroll for credit at MUW. His acceptance to the university''s nursing school came after a lengthy court case in the U.S. District, Circuit and Supreme courts. 


Hogan, along with local attorneys Wilbur Colom and Wayne Drinkwater, sued MUW in 1980 after the school refused to allow Hogan to enroll for credit.  


After the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of MUW and the Circuit Court ruled in Hogan''s favor, the nation''s Supreme Court settled the case by forcing the school to accept Hogan, Vance explained. 


"It was a landmark case for sexual discrimination in higher education," Vance told the class. "It set the benchmark for all institutions and said they could no longer discriminate according to gender." 


Although Hogan was not the first male to take classes at the university nor the first to attempt to enroll for class credit, he was the first to file a suit against the Columbus university, Vance said. 


"Men could attend here before Hogan filed the suit, but they couldn''t get credit for the classes they took," Vance explained. "That was set up mostly for the Air Force base. 


"A man named Charles Perkins actually applied to the school about five or six years before Hogan did, and was denied," Vance added. "But he (Perkins) did not pursue the matter in court after that." 


Even though many associate more well-known cases with higher education gender discrimination, Hogan''s suit against MUW served as a blueprint for many related cases, Vance explained. 


"Similar cases at The Citadel and VMI (Virginia Military Institute) received much more media attention when they happened, but they were both actually decided because of MUW," Vance explained. "Both of those schools involved females trying to attend all-male schools. 


"But they were actually decided based on MUW''s case, which was the exact opposite," Vance added. "A lot of people don''t know a lot about gender integration because it didn''t have a lot of violence associated with it like racial integration did." 


Though the MUW case was decided more than 25 years ago, it can be tied to some of the university''s current issues, according to Vance.  


"When they admitted Hogan, it kind of threw the university into a vortex," Vance said, referencing the school''s current name-change debate. "If you''re no longer a school just for women, where do you fit the university? 


"If it''s no longer a school just for girls, should it still be named MUW?" Vance added. "These are questions that are still very much debated, and they can be traced back to Hogan''s case."




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Reader Comments

Article Comment Curious commented at 8/30/2009 6:08:00 PM:

Sorry to leave a comment on the wrong story... Where is the story that was in Friday's paper about the W's Foundation being cleared of all wrongdoing? Can't find it online & it needs to be


Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 8/31/2009 8:27:00 AM:

Couldn't find a Dispatch article, but is this the report you're looking for?


Article Comment Curious commented at 8/31/2009 10:43:00 AM:

Will look at the site - thanks for posting it. I think it's very important that the story be on the online edition.


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