This Citadel Class Begins Its March to a Different Cadence
Classes begin today with a new president in charge of the troubled military institution.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — When the 18 women in The Citadel's freshman class line up for their "knob" haircuts and crisply execute their first military salute today, they will do so at an institution undergoing a profound transformation.
Greeting the cadets will be a new president whose credentials include a master's from Oxford University and time served as a White House adviser.
In the "tomb," as the cadets call the hallway of top administrative offices, there is now a post that would have been unfathomable two years ago: The Dean of Women.
Even a core principle of Citadel basic training - learning by intimidation - is out the window.
"What we're going to have is a system that's based on achievement, not survival," says incoming president Gen. John Grinalds. "It's not going to be living through nine months of hell at the hands of some abusive upperclassman who shouts and screams or just plays with you for his amusement. It's going to be as a consequence of having met standards for performance."
The 150-year-old school - one of the last all-male public institutions - has been mired in controversy since Shannon Faulkner's first attempt to breach the gender barrier in 1994. Today, The Citadel is reevaluating each step of its educational process - from the administrative philosophy to course curriculum and barracks life. It is a reformation that transcends the admittance of women at the school. Yet it also exemplifies how women are slowly, but consistently, changing the military's traditionally all-male culture.
"There's no doubt that women have an effect on The Citadel in terms of what we're doing for the future," says Mr. Grinalds, a retired Marine major general.
In addition to a new president and a dean of women, a new position of assistant to the commandant for assimilation has been created and filled by a woman. A woman has been hired to the school's recruiting staff, two of the eight new tactical officers who will be on campus to watch and mentor the cadets are women, and two women advisory members of the school's board of visitors have been added.
Beyond the presence of women in the administration, Grinalds envisions a school that will be an academic powerhouse first - and a military college second.
"We have a mission, which is to provide a good academic education ... and then around that is an experience in the military format of the college, which teaches you how to be a leader in a very effective way," he says.
Playing by Grinalds' rules
To make this vision possible, Grinalds has rewritten and clarified the code of conduct and standards followed at the school. He's mandating changes - such as upperclassmen will have fewer weekends allowed off campus and all cadets must have breakfast together - to ensure that underclassmen have the student leadership he feels they need.
He's hired new staff to increase supervision of cadets. For instance, ROTC leaders will now be present during study periods in the barracks. Since last February, an officer has stayed overnight in the barracks to cut down on "shenanigans."
Even the academic courses will change. Suzanne Ozment, the dean of women and dean of undergraduate studies, has begun a review of the entire curriculum to make sure women's achievements are adequately represented.
She also plans to bring more women on campus for educational presentations and make the faculty aware of current teaching techniques that may be unsuitable for coed classes.
But the metamorphosis at The Citadel, and the admission of women at Virginia Military Institute this year, is not embraced by all. Michael Guthrie, a VMI graduate, for example, is troubled by a decline in standards.
"The rat line - akin to Marine Corps basic training system - is an adversative system designed for young men preparing for ... hand-to-hand combat," he says. "The United States armed services does not permit women to hold these combat positions." Therefore, women have no place in schools like The Citadel and VMI, he maintains.
Mr. Guthrie announced plans last week to begin raising money to start a private military college that would only admit men and would more closely resemble the early days of military institutions, having its foundations in Christianity and Southern gentility. "A lot of things have changed in the last 20 years," Guthrie says wistfully.
Other critics of The Citadel are concerned that the changes are not as far-reaching as they appear.
"Many of the public pronouncements made last year were promising at The Citadel," says Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center in Washington, but the actions of individuals "sent a [different] message."
The Citadel admitted Ms. Faulkner under court order in 1995. She left after a week, citing stress and isolation. Last year, two women cadets left amid allegations of being set on fire by an upper classman.
Still, observers with experience in the integration of women into the military academies say that by making top administrative changes, The Citadel is following the right course for making women a successful part of the school's corps of cadets.
"First and foremost, the thing that has to happen is that there needs to be clear and sure signal from the top that the time is now for women to become part of the tradition," says Richard Ballard, a senior military fellow from the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies in Washington.
After three years of controversy on campus, the staff and students generally welcome the changes - and seem to have put any grudge against having women at the college behind them.
"This is probably the most exciting and positive change we've had at The Citadel in a long time," says cadet Col. Brett Strand, as he guards a barracks building in his summer dress uniform. "I feel like my senior class has really been given an opportunity to succeed this year."