LEXINGTON, Va. (AP) _ Five first-year Virginia Military Institute cadets were expelled Tuesday for beating a classmate.

The five ``rats,'' as first-year VMI students are called, entered a classmate's room around 4 a.m. Friday, restrained him and hit him several times. The victim's face was cut and bruised.

The VMI Executive Committee, made up of officers from the three upper classes, heard evidence Monday and recommended that the five cadets be expelled. School officials agreed, spokesman Mike Strickler said.

Strickler declined to identify the expelled students or the victim.

``Violence against a cadet is just not something we're going to tolerate here,'' Strickler said. ``That's not the way to resolve a conflict.''

During their first six months at VMI, cadets are pushed physically and mentally and constantly hounded by upperclassmen as part of a process of instilling discipline. Physical abuse is forbidden.

Last year, two cadets were suspended and one was punished but allowed to stay in school for spanking first-year cadets. In 1996, six students were suspended for assaulting a freshman and nine others were disciplined for their role in the incident.