Judge snubs a federal suggestion for addressing Citadel hazing
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ A federal judge today turned down a Justice Department request to post notices on The Citadel’s campus telling cadets about their responsibility to report hazing.
U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck, who is overseeing the admission last fall of four women to the formerly all-male state military college, met privately with families of two female Citadel cadets who were allegedly harassed and hazed last year.
At a hearing Wednesday on school security, Justice Department lawyer Michael Mauer discussed sending U.S. marshals to The Citadel, having a federal officer brief cadets about laws regarding harassment and posting notices about the importance of reporting hazing.
Houck did not address the suggestion about the marshals, but immediately expressed skepticism about the briefings.
``You think the average FBI officer can go out and make a speech and explain that to the corps of cadets and not be laughed at?″ Houck asked. ``It’s not a trivial matter to stand up and tell 2,000 young people their responsibilities under the law.″
The state and the FBI are investigating reports that cadets Kim Messer of Clover and Jeanie Mentavlos of Charlotte, N.C., were targeted by male cadets.
Both women have said they want to return to campus when classes resume next week, but are concerned about security.
Houck held an off-the-record session today with Ms. Mentavlos, her brother and father and Ms. Messer’s parents.
``I just want to chat with them and see what they want to do,″ said Houck. ``They don’t want to be in the limelight. I don’t want anyone to think they are being critical of the corps of cadets. I’m just interested in their personal concerns for safety.″
Two other women who joined the corps in August have not reported problems but did corroborate some details of the incidents, said Joseph Trez, a retired Army colonel who oversees The Citadel’s student military system.
Trez testified that 11 cadets now face disciplinary action stemming from the hazing allegations. Originally, five cadets were relieved of their military duties and moved to another barracks, and two were suspended from school.
Now, four more cadets face punishment. They will be allowed to return to their barracks next week after the holiday break.
An upperclassman, who is already suspended, allegedly told one woman: ``If I ever see you off campus, I will cut your heart out,″ Trez said.
New allegations disclosed in court indicate a male cadet made unwanted sexual advances, one woman was forced to drink iced tea until she became ill, and cleanser was put in the women’s mouths.
Trez also said cadets allegedly twice put nail polish remover on two of the women’s clothes and set them afire and pushed a rifle into a woman’s face.
The Citadel plans to have school officials talk with cadets and conduct small group sensitivity training sessions.
Ms. Messer and Ms. Mentavlos have said they want to come back but are worried about security. Ms. Mentavlos’ attorney, Tim Kulp, said the women still don’t have enough information to make a decision.
The Citadel dropped its all-male admissions policy last summer after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar policy at Virginia Military Institute was unconstitutional.