There they sit, two 150-year-old institutions fighting for survival as single-sex schools, Virginia Military Institute near the East Coast and Mills College on the West Coast. They are two schools with distinct and distinguished traditions. You'd think they would share a common goal, wouldn't you?

Not so, says Judy Mann {"The Role of Women's Schools," Metro, May 16} in the most convoluted indictment of male supremacy she's mustered in a long time. She argues that although both Mills and VMI receive public support, VMI is a state-run school and therefore cannot violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Then, in a clever twist that gives her the ability in the future to argue against any challenge of state-run women's schools, she says that continuance of state-run single-sex schools can be justified only in cases where there is a need to educate specific groups such as blacks or women.

Mann has, as her source of information for this argument, Ellen J. Vargyas, the staff attorney at the National Women's Law Center "who specializes in educational equity issues." Concerning women's schools and black colleges, she quotes Vargyas as saying, "I think that's a very important option for girls and young women to have in ways I can't see any legitimate need for {white} boys and young men to have. They have those role models."

On what basis is this kind of thinking not considered discriminatory? It argues for exclusivity and privilege, and feminism is supposed to be about equality and choice. Did Vargyas (and Mann) not know that many of VMI's black cadets favor VMI's remaining all-male? And what about Morehouse College, a predominantly black all-male school? Should it be undisturbed because the students are black, or forced to admit women because the students are male? After all, male bonding is extremely dangerous, a superglue holding fast the gates barring women's progress.

Rubbish! The point is that students in these schools honor their traditions, and feel that they perform better undistracted by the opposite sex. Reasonable students (and most are) are not driven by animosity toward the opposite sex or feelings of superiority. They simply want, for this period in their lives, to be removed from the complications of coeducation. They deserve the freedom to do so. -- Lynn Schrichte

Judy Mann's defense of discrimination against men at all-women's colleges would have made more sense if instead of comparing Mills College with VMI and other state educational institutions she had compared Mills with private colleges that were formerly all-male.

Princeton and Yale come to mind. These institutions decided that it was wrong not to admit women, and they became co-ed. The result was gender equality in the classroom and elsewhere on campus.

Mann's double standard on the issue just doesn't wash. Discrimination is discrimination whether it applies to gender, race or ethnic origin. It's plain wrong for the students at Mills to operate on the insidious principle that "they don't want to go to school with men."

-- Owen Mather

On Feb. 7, Judy Mann wrote a column about the all-male admissions policy at Virginia Military Institute. It was called "Neanderthal Bonding." On May 16, she wrote a column about the all-female admissions policy at Mills College. It was called "The Role of Women's Schools." It doesn't take a genius to recognize Mann's bias. In truth, her double standard regarding single-sex education is not only distressing, it is insulting, patronizing and unworthy of your newspaper.

Let me note that I am among the distinct minority of VMI graduates who believe that the admission of women will not hurt VMI's academic standards or its tradition. While certain valued aspects of life at VMI will be permanently altered, I am confident that the school will maintain its commitment to excellence and move ahead with firm resolve.

However, Mann did not concern herself with the substance of the controversy. Her vitriol was aimed straight at the heart of an honorable and fine institution. In Mann's rhetoric, VMI with its all-male policy is a "medieval time warp" and an "anachronism," while the all-female policy at Mills "provides an opportunity for women to hold all the positions in student government." VMI's all-male policy is used to "keep women out and down," according to Mann, but Mills' all-female policy insulates women from "overbearing male classmates." There must be as many women as men offended by these patronizing and juvenile assumptions.

Mann mentions that she was challenged by her colleagues to explain the differences between the controversies at VMI and Mills, and notes that VMI is a state institution while Mills is private. While the true issue of single-sex education will probably turn on this distinction, it clearly does not justify Mann's angry and disturbing rhetoric. -- Harry Johnston

The writer is a Democratic representative from Florida.