Citadel Women Get Haircuts, Take Cadet Oath
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ Four women took the oath of a Citadel cadet _ the first to do so in the school’s 153-year history _ after getting short haircuts and being drilled in how to salute and march.
The women and their 572 male counterparts marched onto a grassy parade field in a light rain and took the oath Monday evening. Then a cannon boomed and the flag was lowered as a cadet band played.
A year ago, Shannon Faulkner became a cadet under a court order but fell ill on the first day of training and left school four days later. She never took the oath.
In June, after a 3 1/2-year legal battle, The Citadel decided to end its men-only policy and admit women. The move came two days after the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the all-male admissions policy at Virginia Military Institute, the nation’s only other all-male public college.
The Citadel women’s haircut is short even by military standards.
``We wanted to have a women’s haircut _ not the standard Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines (haircut),″ said interim college President Clifton Poole.
``It should be short enough so it wouldn’t be a bother during the training period so when they have to take quick showers, they can just dry their hair with towels,″ he said.
The haircut left the four women cadets with hair off their shoulders and collar, and with their ears showing.
Poole said all the cadets seemed to be adapting well.
``They’re trying to march. They’re trying to stand straight. They’re trying to salute, and they are trying to just keep their composure together,″ he said.
Two of the women, Kim Messer of Clover and Jeanie Mentavlos of Charlotte, N.C., lost their composure briefly after getting their haircuts and picking up supplies at the bookstore. Several men also shed a few tears.
But a few minutes later, the women were determinedly heading back to their barracks, carrying white duffel bags with uniforms and other supplies.
The other two female cadets are Nancy Mace of Goose Creek and Petra Lovetinska, a Czech who lives in Washington.
College officials have refused to allow interviews with freshmen.
On Monday, the ``knobs″ had to officially report to their companies, writing their names at a table while reaching from behind a line on the floor several feet away.
All the while, student officers yelled orders at them.
``They are scared,″ Cadet Spencer Witkin said Monday. ``They are still wondering what is going on. `Am I going to make it? Am I going to quit?′ They don’t know yet.″
Commandant of Cadets Col. Joseph Trez said the freshman were persevering. By 6 p.m. he had not signed a single withdrawal, although a few reportedly were pending. On swearing-in day last year, he had signed six; the year before, 20.
On Wednesday, the full fourth-class system takes effect at The Citadel. That means first-year cadets must stand as well as run at attention in the barracks and make square corners wherever they walk.
And they must walk in the gutters on campus streets.