Faulkner Says Her Well-Being Came Second to Getting Women into Citadel
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ Shannon Faulkner says the stress, media attention and death threats that came with becoming The Citadel’s first woman cadet nearly drove her to a nervous breakdown, and her weight up to 200 pounds.
All the while, she told Oprah Winfrey on Thursday, some of her lawyers and supporters seemed more interested in getting her into the all-male, state-supported military school than in her well-being.
``I am becoming aware of a lot of things I was disillusioned about,″ she said on the nationally syndicated talk show. ``I’m starting to realize that a lot of people didn’t care specifically what was best for me.″
One of her lawyers, Suzanne Coe, told The Greenville News that there is no friction between her and Ms. Faulkner. ``With litigation in itself there’s going to be emotional difficulty between all members of the team at times,″ she said.
Ms. Faulkner, 20, sued the college in 1993 over its all-male admissions policy, which a federal judge ruled last year was unconstitutional.
She dropped out of The Citadel Aug. 18 after less than a week, citing the stress of her 2 1/2-year court fight and her isolation as the only woman cadet. Twenty-three other cadets also dropped out of the freshman class that week.
She was taken to the infirmary with heat exhaustion the first day of the rigorous drills and marching called ``hell week″ and never returned to duty.
Ms. Faulkner told Winfrey that the stress, the death threats and the vandalism to her family home in Powdersville almost got to her in August 1994.
``I did start to have an emotional collapse. But then I stopped myself and said, `No I can’t do this. I don’t have time for this,‴ she said.
Ms. Faulkner, who is 5-feet-8, said she weighed 150 pounds when she sued the school and gained 50 pounds during the court fight. She said she has lost about half of it.
``Weight has always been an issue in my life,″ she said, but disputed Winfrey’s suggestion that being overweight may have worsened the rigors of being a cadet.
A federal judge had rejected the school’s request to bar her because of her weight.
Ms. Faulkner’s mother, Sandy, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that her daughter felt in 1994 that she couldn’t go on with the battle but that her lawyers persuaded her to continue.
Mrs. Faulkner also said the family hadn’t been worried about her daughter’s physical condition and family doctors had cleared her to become a cadet.
``But I did not realize the stress she had built up over 2 1/2 years. If we realized how stressed she was, we might have reacted differently,″ she said.
Citadel spokesman Col. Terry Leedom and Alex Pettett, Ms. Faulkner’s company commander, appeared on the talk show via satellite after Ms. Faulkner asked not to appear on the same stage.
Leedom and Pettett said the campus-wide celebrations after Ms. Faulkner quit should be viewed as a celebration of The Citadel’s return to tradition.
``We don’t celebrate failure at The Citadel,″ Leedom said.