The editorial "Just A Matter of Principle" {Nov. 26} suggests that Gov. Douglas Wilder's change in personal views regarding admission of women to the Virginia Military Institute was prompted by a federal district court's decision that he remain a co-defendant in the case brought against the school by the U.S. Department of Justice. To confuse the political expediency of the governor's "change of heart" with principle is a gross disservice to readers.

Is it a matter of principle for Gov. Wilder to ignore his commitment to the graduating class of 1990 when he stated in his VMI commencement address that the courts should rule on the issue of VMI's males-only admission policy? Was it principle that caused the governor to declare that "VMI should be run by VMI"? Or were his remarks on May 19 as shallow as his stated support for the verdict of the court, "whatever it may be"?

Some legal experts have suggested that the arguments for retaining the admissions policy that were put forth by Virginia's attorney general have merit and could prevail. Others, of course, disagree. But rather than stand by his commitment to "let the courts rule," Gov. Wilder set himself up as judge, jury and -- by his threats to withhold VMI funding -- executioner.

Certainly a change in VMI's admissions policy will necessitate changes in a system that has produced men of vision and principle. If changes at VMI are ordered by the court, then change it must. But if change results from Gov. Wilder's forgoing his commitments as part of a strategy to help him achieve political ambitions, then such changes, as well as those political ambitions, deserve to be defeated.

MICHAEL L. KLION Arlington