Stress Forces First Female Cadet To Leave Citadel
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ More than two years of death threats, vandalism and court battles stretched Shannon Faulkner to the limit, leaving her with no more strength to continue as The Citadel’s first female cadet.
She had reported to the all-male state military college one week ago today, but spent most of the time in the infirmary. In a voice near tears Friday, she said she had enough.
``Today has been the hardest day of my life,″ Ms. Faulkner, 20, said in a driving rain outside the school. She did not know what she would do next.
``The past 2 1/2 years came crashing down on me in an instant. I know my life is going to be miserable for a while,″ she said.
During her battle to join the corps, Ms. Faulkner’s family home in Powdersville was vandalized, she received death threats and she was the brunt of jokes and bumper stickers.
The latest sticker, which showed up on the streets days after she came to The Citadel, showed a cadet on a pink background with the words: ``It’s A Girl _ 186 pounds, 6 ounces.″
The college had tried to keep Ms. Faulkner out based on her weight, which was not disclosed. A school spokesman had said Ms. Faulkner was 20 pounds over weight requirements and that the school doctor had recommended she be rejected.
Ms. Faulkner was taken to the infirmary with heat exhaustion Monday, the first day of rigorous drills and marching during what freshmen call ``hell week.″ She never returned to duty.
``I don’t think there’s any dishonor in leaving,″ Ms. Faulkner said. ``I think there’s dis-justice in my staying and killing myself just for the political point.″
Heat illnesses are not uncommon at the college. One cadet was taken on a stretcher from a physical fitness test Wednesday for treatment of heat stress, officials said. Two others were taken to the hospital Thursday for treatment.
School spokesman Terry Leedom said he knew of no cadet who had missed the crucial first week and then went on to graduate. Twenty-three other cadets also dropped out of the freshman class this week.
Cadets greeted the news of Ms. Faulkner’s departure by honking car horns and doing pushups on the gray and red checkerboard quadrangle in the middle of the barracks where Ms. Faulkner had briefly lived.
``It’s just guys celebrating,″ said Ken Dieffenbach, second in command of the approximately 2,000 members of the corps. ``It’s unfortunate for her, but it keeps this place the way we always wanted it.″
Alex Pettett, Ms. Faulkner’s company commander, said it was time to for The Citadel to put the controversy behind. ``Let the alumni forget, let the lawyers forget and let everyone get on with their lives,″ he said.
Ms. Faulkner has been under continual stress since early 1993, when she sued the college over its all-male admissions policy. The college accepted her application after she had references to her sex deleted from her high school transcript.
She had been taking day classes at The Citadel but had not been allowed to participate in military training until this week. A federal judge ruled last year the college’s all-male admissions policy was unconstitutional. Two U.S. Supreme Court justices cleared the way for her admission last Friday.
As a way to keep women out of The Citadel, South Carolina wants to create a separate women’s leadership program at Converse College in Spartanburg. The program begins this fall, but the plans have not been approved by the courts.
While the two Supreme Court justices allowed Ms. Faulkner to enter the school this year, the larger question of whether separate but equal educational facilities for women are constitutional has not been resolved by the courts.
A lawyer for Ms. Faulkner, Val Vojdik, said the fight to break The Citadel’s all-male tradition will continue. Since Ms. Faulkner began her fight, The Citadel has received more than 200 letters from women interested in joining the corps, he said.
``If The Citadel thinks it can solve the problem through Shannon’s leaving, they’re dead wrong,″ Vojdik said. ``This case is about all women.″