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SECRET SOCIETY AT YALE WILL ADMIT WOMEN

The alumni board of Skull and Bones has quietly voted to admit women, two months after an embarrassingly public quarrel over the issue among members of Yale University's elite secret society.

Bonesmen around the country, including President Bush, a 1948 Yale graduate, will soon receive ballots in which they will be asked to ratify the vote. Ballots are to be counted at the end of July.At a meeting late last month, the board recommended 6-2 that Skull and Bones end its all-male tradition, sources in the society said.

Skull and Bones is a private association founded 159 years ago. Its membership roll of more than 700 reads like a Who's Who in America.

The oldest of the senior societies at Yale, it is one of only two that have not admitted women since the Ivy League school went coeducational in 1969.

In mid-April, the alumni directors of Skull and Bones suspended undergraduate activities for a year after the 15 seniors who make up the 1991 club defied their elders by deciding on their own to tap women as members.

The alumni changed the locks on the club's meetinghouse, a windowless building known as the "Tomb," and announced they would not recognize the 15 women and men tapped from the junior class as members of Skull and Bones.

The rebellious seniors said they took the action because the board was being indecisive. The board had promised to resolve the issue by the first week in April.

By not admitting women, Skull and Bones cannot claim to be a club for "the 15 best and brightest at Yale," the seniors who broke with tradition said.

Over the years, Skull and Bones has been fanatical about keeping secret what goes on inside the Tomb, often leading to wild rumors of bizarre rituals.

The showdown briefly lifted that cloak of secrecy, with dissident Bonesmen openly discussing some of their traditions - such as the sessions in which members discuss their "emotional and life histories."

Bonesmen on both sides of the issue have since agreed to stop discussing club matters in public.