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  • Written by Catherine S. Manegold
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The Citadel, Shannon Faulkner, and a Changing America

Written by Catherine S. ManegoldAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Catherine S. Manegold

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On Sale: December 09, 2009
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-307-48621-9
Published by : Vintage Knopf
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In Glory's Shadow explores the history of The Citadel, an institution set on preserving tradition in the face of profound change. Established as protection against slave insurrections feared by the white minority of Charleston, South Carolina, a generation later The Citadel was a school of privilege for young white men. Through two world wars it grew in size and reputation, proudly providing the United States with (male) military leaders, paying little heed to what was happening in the country around it.

In 1993, when the school rescinded Shannon Faulkner's admission because of her gender, a landmark legal battle ensued. Faulkner won, and although she faced vicious harassment and left after a week, The Citadel was forced to reform: nearly 30 women have graduated since her brief time at The Citadel. In Glory's Shadow is an engrossing and illuminating look at this pivotal event in military history and the history of women.

Excerpt

Pioneer

You can go to a city thinking that it is a small thing, that it will not dominate or change you; but that was not how she went there. She went hoping for a shape to mold her life against, to push and twist until the contours matched. She was nineteen then. And she went away from home the way so many others had, to Charleston, all full of hope, seduced by the city and its Citadel, that long history, the mildew and magnolias, the fierce old loyalties and that unarticulated sense of something stronger than the mere ephemera of modern lives spent on the move. Like every man who had gone before, she went because she wanted to be tested, because she had the dream of finding some place to belong. Despite The Citadel's famous deprivations, she found the school's hard-burnished promise sweet: Those who wore the ring were guaranteed, among their own, both recognition and respect. But she was first in a new line, not last in an old one, and no one really wanted her.

For all the similarities that had borne her to those gates -- and there were many -- that one difference was defining. She was an optimistic pioneer in a world quietly dying. Still, she persisted. She broke the privacy of that slow death and brought its grasping rage upon her. It was an adolescent challenge she took up without much thought. But with one step across that old divide she was pulled into the vortex of a battle long since joined. She would be shaped by it completely, though not as she expected. At the beginning, she had no notion what she had touched. By the end, she bore its scar. The contours never matched.

On August 12, 1995, the first day of a hot fall season that would see the induction of the class of 1999, Shannon Richey Faulkner signed in to The Citadel as its first female cadet. Always before, in a 153-year history broken only by the Civil War and Reconstruction, men alone had marched. Indeed, even on that August day the court case hung unfinished, still subject to appeals. Citadel officials had worked furiously in that last week to try to block her way. Arcane academic arguments were no longer of much use to them. Instead, The Citadel's lead lawyer, Dawes Cooke, the boyish, sweet-faced son of a Marine, now pleaded with the judge that Shannon was too fat to march. His arguments fell flat. Judge C. Weston Houck, trying hard to hide his irritation, waved off those final overtures. By then, the federal judge could see no reason why Shannon should be deprived of The Citadel's full experience. As the school's lone day student, she had studied in cadet classes for more than a year but been barred from most other college activities. Since the school's famous barracks system was deemed key to its identity and method of training, Judge Houck believed that awkward compromise left Shannon at a disadvantage. Now, with a final legal resolution pending but a string of interim victories already on her side, every door would finally open. And so on that hot August weekend, though Shannon Faulkner, now twenty, had the college credits and demeanor of an older student, she entered The Citadel as a "knob," arriving early with the freshman class for the rigors of indoctrination.

Because of her singular relationship with that old school, Shannon experienced no sense of initial shock as her parents' van eased past a guard post at the campus gate. Though freshmen reeled and sighed, to her it was familiar ground. Waved through by a white-gloved cadet who scowled equally at every car that passed, the Faulkners moved into a scene designed and scripted to impress. A huge white wall rose high along the edge of Hampton Park, blocking students from the hum of daily life. To the southwest, the Ashley River, rolling languidly behind a wide expanse of marsh, provided a more natural barrier. Everywhere, the school's perimeter was clearly marked and firmly closed. Inside it, the Military College of South Carolina provided students with a stage set from another time and place. Around the green and closely trimmed central expanse of Summerall Field rose Moorish castles painted white. Those buildings, gleaming in a neat array, gave the seventy-three-year-old campus the aspect of an ancient relic transplanted from the dunes.

At the head of the school's central parade field, Bond Hall, the home of college administrators, bristled with turrets and the shining spikes of several flagpoles. To its right, Stevens Barracks (better known by its fond sobriquet, "the Zoo") began a run of four similar buildings that lined the field's southwest flank, their backs facing to the marsh. After the Zoo came Law Barracks, where Shannon was to stay. Next was Padgett-Thomas Barracks, an oversized building finished off with a huge clock tower, flags snapping smartly at its highest point. Situated just behind Summerall Field's metal reviewing stand, Padgett-Thomas housed the corps of cadets' regimental staff as well as several hundred other boys. Of all the buildings on the campus, it was by far the most commanding, implying in its very architecture that students held the upper hand upon that ground. At the end stood Murray Barracks, the first built and now scheduled for demolition, a pattern for the other three. From the street it appeared as imposing as it was plain, a four-story fortress with an iron gate swung heavily across its sally port, short octagonal towers rising stubbily above the stairwells at each corner and medieval crenelations marking a jagged edge along the roof.

The quadrangle of every barracks was an oversized concrete checkerboard neatly painted red and white. Above, smooth white stucco arches rose and fell in even undulations, making each floor's gallery an airy breezeway that gave out onto the central square. Like prison catwalks towering above a constant churn of uniforms, those open hallways lent a forbidding air to the barracks' interior design. The architecture concentrated attention -- and focused noise -- on the central courtyards in which cadets gathered for instruction, for punishment and, grouped tightly in small companies, in neat, impatient lines just prior to parades. No privacy was possible inside those walls. Even stairwells were exposed. Other than inside the students' rooms, none of which had locks, cadets were subject to relentless scrutiny and constant reprimand. Their lives were not their own.


For four years, everything about a cadet's life would fit into strict devices of hierarchy and control. That was true, to some extent, everywhere they moved on campus; but it was most true in the barracks, where older boys held younger boys to exacting standards of their own invention. Discipline was dealt out in the rhetoric of high ideals. Each yawning barracks' entryway greeted students with reminders of stern absolutes. "A cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do," came one warning lifted from the honor code. "Duty," said a quote taken from Robert E. Lee and printed up in polished brass, "is the sublimest word in the English language." Upstairs in Padgett-Thomas Barracks, in the carpeted private quarters of the soft-spoken regimental commander, a chalk message on a blackboard put the theme a bit more ominously: "We are not hurting boys, we are disciplining men" came the bleak reassurance to cadets who wore the stripes and studs of ranking officers.

At the foot of the parade field, Jenkins Hall (known in some eras as "the tool shed" for its role in housing cadet rifles), was the home of the college's military staff. Crowded with the uniforms of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, it was home to the commandant and his staff as well as to faculty who served on active duty while teaching ROTC classes to cadets. Next to it stood several other buildings that gazed out across the grass, southeast, toward administrators in Bond Hall, making bookends of adult authority. Along the field's fourth side, directly opposite the barracks, stood the Daniel Library, Summerall Chapel and Mark Clark Hall: the brain, the soul and the heart of the place, respectively.

Set back and off that center stage were a dozen or so other edifices constructed with considerably less medieval zeal but holding just as much importance in each student's life. Among them were the field hall, the new mess hall, the much-visited infirmary and an odd assortment of other structures used to keep the campus running. A large laundry freshened cadet uniforms, and a cadet store kept boys furnished with everything from books to the insignia that might someday denote their rank. Between Law Barracks and the infirmary, a new barracks -- Watts -- was under construction. Though mimicking the form of the buildings that lay near it, Watts was to be equipped with air-conditioning, an innovation that scandalized Citadel faithful who thought that suffocating heat and swarms of biting gnats were part of the institution's very soul. Faculty and administration housing lay above and behind Bond Hall, out of sight and mostly out of earshot. The president's house, then occupied by a towering, sallow-skinned Air Force lieutenant general named Bud Watts, was a low dwelling built at the head of a sweeping drive. Tucked back behind the school's newly resurfaced tennis courts, the residence had the modestly distinguished look of a house a diplomat might occupy in some small outpost in the tropics.

Situated in Charleston's northwest and occupying what served as the heel of the city's pointed, foot-shaped peninsula, The Citadel's main campus covered only a relatively modest plot of land and was far enough off the beaten path to be hard to find for idle tourists. There, it proved so self-contained that it even had its own postmark. Mail stamped on the campus was identified as coming not from Charleston (though it lay well within the city's bounds) but from "Citadel Station, SC." Cadets, in fact, would soon discover that the college could provide almost everything that they might need. It was a world unto itself, tightly closed and strictly regulated, complete and all-consuming.

To cadets and visitors alike, the parade field and the few buildings situated around it captured the school's central themes of God and country, might and purpose. Idled tanks and jets stood sentry. An enormous cannon loomed below Bond Hall. A cross rose prominently above the arching crowns of gnarly trees outside the chapel. At the parade field's head, an oversized American flag flapped huge and lazy in the humid air. Though cadets arrived on their first day as nervous adolescents barely starting out in life, not one would leave that ground an innocent. Succeed or fail, thrive or falter, they would learn life's hardest lessons there. That was the school's promise. That was its oldest threat. Those few acres would reshape their lives and redefine their destinies. That was what they came for. That was what they most desired.

Shannon Faulkner, a tall, large-boned teenager with a quick wit and extraordinary self-confidence, had hardly paid the school any mind while she was growing up in a rural enclave outside Greenville, South Carolina. No one in her family had ever studied there. But her brother joined the Navy after high school, and Shannon was impressed by the changes it had worked in him. She hoped The Citadel might give her the same discipline and drive. And she was tantalized by the thought of taking that old institution on. So, early in 1993, she applied. Her application was accepted by a college official who mistook her for a boy. Then she was rejected. After that, she sued.


The woman who showed up on The Citadel's campus for knob training in 1995 had changed in the several years that her court case had dragged on. Long-haired and relatively slender in high school, she had cut her smooth chestnut locks to shoulder length and gained some weight and had taken on a certain toughness in the long battle that ensued. Never given to stereotypical feminine charms (she laughingly called herself "Hostesszilla" while at one restaurant job), she did not tolerate fools with grace or ever sweeten what she had to say. Instead, she faced the world with an unvarnished bluntness. It was a trait that could either charm or shock, depending on her audience. Her humor was sharp, her opinions pointed. Her ire was equal-opportunity. Though teams of lawyers sweated on her behalf, convinced her suit had overarching merit, Shannon never lost sight of one simple fact that lay at the litigation's core. "They work for me," she said without self-consciousness. When she did not like their work, she fired them with neither hesitation nor remorse. She was an unsentimental rebel in that way, a girl caught in an awkward chasm between her disappearing childhood and the nation's own difficult coming of age. Puckish and determined and certainly a bit naive, she was a modern teenager who did not believe in rote obedience yet chose to pit herself against an institution that taught it as a religion. The fireworks she sparked burned and showered from the start.

For nearly three years as Shannon's lawsuit against The Citadel moved through the court system, she was threatened, intimidated, vilified and humiliated. The Scarlet Pimpernel, an anonymous columnist writing in the school's newspaper, the Brigadier, dubbed her "the divine bovine," leading some cadets to moo whenever she appeared. ("Who will be the first to mount the cow?" the Scarlet Pimpernel once mused.) Her parents' house in Powdersville was sabotaged and sprayed with obscene epithets. "Bitch." "Dyke." "Whore." Death threats came by telephone. Hate mail raged with no return address. Still, she won her legal battles. But even after the latest court victories her medical records were subpoenaed, and her weight was leaked to local newspapers. That fall, pink bumper stickers reported her arrival, perhaps aptly, as a birth: "it's a girl! 186 pounds, 6 ounces." Sharper sentiments showed up as well. "Die Shannon," other messages taunted, echoing a sentiment once printed on a highway billboard to cast an even darker spell.

Some alumni found themselves amused by all those threats. "Die Shannon"? Well, that would stop her, they said laughing. Couldn't everybody see that it was all a joke? Cadets always poked fun. Now they merely aimed their fun at her. What did she expect? She asked for it, students agreed. What did she want with them, anyway? Was she a lesbian? An Amazon? A nymphomaniac? A fool? She did not fit their neat conceptions.

Furor over the case gripped many across the state. On Charleston's streets, Shannon was sometimes applauded. More often she was jeered or coldly snubbed. Her face was known to everyone, and everyone had an opinion. On the radio, disc jockeys spun a country tune with Shannon's court case as its theme. Callers sometimes requested it with raspy cackles of delight. The song never made it to the national airwaves. But at The Citadel demand for "It Don't Make Her a Bulldog" grew so intense that a sports booster organization called the Brigadier Club sold cassettes out of a bottom drawer to anyone who knew enough to ask. For a time, at least, the tune became a noisy anthem for the school. In it, Shannon was a "bitch" caught in the thrall of liberal New York lawyers. The "Bulldogs," as cadets were known, were set to keep tradition strong. The lyrics made it clear which side should win. Over the twang of a steel guitar songwriters warned: "There's two thousand boys on the coast fired up, and they ain't backing down, and they'll never give up!"

That atmosphere had worn on Shannon's nerves. If she was cocky and self-confident at the fight's start, she was less so three years later when the time finally came to live as one woman among almost two thousand men. Her distress showed up in minor ways. In the weeks preceding that fall term she asked her mother to make her an appointment with a gynecologist. Her mother, Sandy, agreed, without asking any questions. The Faulkners had a pattern that allowed the kids a certain measure of responsibility over their own lives. It was Sandy's thinking that the best support any mother could provide was to make her own opinions crystal clear, then fade back and leave her door wide open. So she kept quiet until Shannon herself demanded: "Well, aren't you going to ask me why, Mom?"

Sandy nodded warily. "Okay, why?" she prompted, swallowing.

"If I get raped," Shannon answered coldly, "I don't want to have a child."


Val Vojdik, Shannon's lead lawyer, rolled her eyes with disgust when confronted with the uglier aspects of the case. Her anger and contempt had only grown from year to year. But by that Saturday in August when Shannon finally arrived to don a cadet's uniform, Vojdik's distress was tempered by the knowledge that her side was close to victory. Dressed conservatively, her gold-brown, blunt-cropped hair straggling in a gentle wind, she rocked and swayed, too excited to stay still. In her early thirties then and sitting on the greatest masterpiece of her career, she smiled broadly at a colleague and raised her eyebrows wordlessly in cheerful signals of delight. Though she had left her law firm for a teaching job while that long case stretched out, she maintained good relations with former colleagues and stood side by side with Henry Weisburg on that day. Taller and grayer (yet dressed more casually in khakis and a baseball cap for the occasion), Weisburg was more used to billion-dollar deals. As a partner at the giant firm of Shearman & Sterling in New York, he often juggled matters that affected affairs of state. But he grinned broadly, too, down by the Ashley River. Swept up in the mood of it, he swayed and bobbed alongside his former colleague in unmindful syncopation.

Standing on a slope of grass outside the music hall, those lawyers made a happy tableau while Shannon swept through a last-minute tryout with the band. Even that detail had been before the judge. Shannon's attorneys hoped to leave Charleston confident that their client was safely ensconced in one of the school's less ferocious companies. Yet Shannon failed her first attempt to tote a musical instrument and not a gun during parades. Citadel officials argued she should not have a second try. Vojdik's entreaties to the judge prevailed, and Shannon's performance went well enough for Herb Day, the flat-topped former Marine in charge of the band, to welcome Shannon then and there. He did not do so. College administrators required more formal procedures of him on that day. The bandleader took it as an insult, but stayed quiet and did as he was told. Even so, as Shannon headed off to Law Barracks she did so with new confidence. She knew her playing had gone well and hoped to soon be out of India Company. It was a minor shift, but an important one. Room 3344 in "the Thundering Third Herd" meant running up and down three flights of stairs on a bad knee every time an upperclassman barked. By contrast, a slot in the band meant a gruff protector in Herb Day and a ground-floor room with no stairwell to navigate as upperclassmen hovered close. After the tryout, Vojdik grinned and administered a friendly pat. They would get it solved, she said.

Elsewhere that morning, Dawes Cooke, shaggy haired and dressed in a dark suit and cheerful tie as was his habit, tended to some last details. He knew the fight was far from over. Though the U.S. Supreme Court had declined to grant an emergency stay, and Judge Houck had dealt the school a rapid sequence of disappointments, Cooke was confident that further struggle lay ahead. The men who paid his bills were hardly ready to give up. In Bond Hall, from his post in the president's chair, Bud Watts had vowed to fight until the end. Several doors away, his former roommate, Lewis Spearman, a Georgia divorce lawyer who by his own count had handled thirteen hundred marriage breakups before he let his bar credentials lapse, was more adamant, still. Their old friend Jimmie Jones, the smooth-coiffed, smooth-spoken head of the board of visitors, was plainly with them, too.

Those men were nothing if not like-minded. No only did each among them wear the school's gold band, but they were classmates and old friends, South Carolinians who had marched together with the class of 1958. Born on the cusp of World War II and weaned on the harsh rhetoric of the Cold War, they came of age in a segregated South under the guidance of General Mark Wayne Clark, a man so deeply averse to social change that he considered the fledgling civil rights movement and moves to racially integrate the United States Armed Forces not only an assault on his sovereignty as a white male but, indeed, a communist design to poison his great country from within. The general retired before the first black ever donned a Citadel uniform. Now, faced with an equally provocative challenge, his former students recycled some old fears. Dogged to the end, they kept their sights on victory even as Shannon opened her few boxes and unpacked.

Several doors down from Watts's office on that morning, Terry Leedom, the school's new head of public relations, fielded calls from around the world. In conversation after conversation he proved monotonously upbeat. Yes, he said blandly into the telephone, the school's first female cadet was now on campus. Yes, he added smoothly, pulling at the sleeves of his mint-green college-issue uniform, students would do all they could to make the system work. Leedom had been severely chastised in recent days. Though normally outspoken and quick to go off the record with insinuations, gossip, and acidic asides, he stayed on his best behavior. He had good reason to. After Shannon's weight appeared in news reports and in a spate of newly minted memorabilia, Vojdik urged Judge Houck to cite the school's public relations representative for contempt for disseminating information then held under a court seal. With Judge Houck clearly angered and an FBI investigation under way, Leedom moved gingerly that morning. If there was trouble, it surely would not come from him.


In fact, there would be no trouble on that day. Everything was battened down. Federal marshals moved across the campus to ensure that all went well. Outside Shannon's room, video cameras with interlocking views of the open gallery outside her door beamed live images to a guardhouse near the college gate. Venetian blinds had been installed inside her room to ensure a veil of privacy. A women's bathroom, the barracks' first, was situated down the hall. In the cool and humming recesses of Bond Hall, Leedom repeated the school's new mantra time and time again. "We have great hopes," he said, defying years of bitter volleys in and out of court. "So far, everything is going well."

On that first morning, someone sent her roses. As Shannon quietly unpacked her things, their delivery sparked a minor drama at the gate. Students at the sally port passed those flowers hand to hand like primed grenades. A note was tucked beside one stem. A tall, hard-faced sophomore opened it and read the message with disdain, then made a face confirming every worst assumption they all shared. The card contained a simple token of good tidings. "Shannon! Best of Luck! This is one giant step for womankind. Think of yourself as a modern day Scarlett. All good wishes from the mother and sister of Citadel graduates!" No signature was scrawled on that small square, not even in a florist's hand. It was an anonymous cheer from women somewhere back behind the scenes. And it made those cadets crazy with contempt. A cluster of uniformed boys shook their heads and scowled, unsure of what to do. Then one among them took control and barked an order sending those flowers back to the main office. "Roses!" he scoffed in a sour whisper of despair. "Shit."

Three floors above, Shannon tied her sneakers tight and touched a tiny charm she had attached discreetly to one lace. In her white shorts and pink T-shirt, her hair pinned neatly back and a silver angel coasting silently above one crumpled sock for luck, she was ready to begin.

"Pretty in pink," hissed an upperclassman as soon as she appeared. Shannon frowned and moved away. She did not see the long-stemmed roses that had come, nor hear, until much later, the good wishes they conveyed. Indeed, those wishes did not take. For in about the time it took those rose petals to fade, Shannon would be gone as well, her life misshapen and her optimism spent.


From the Hardcover edition.
Catherine S. Manegold|Author Q&A

About Catherine S. Manegold

Catherine S. Manegold - In Glory's Shadow

Photo © Stephen Crowley

Catherine S. Manegold covered the litigation between Shannon Faulkner and The Citadel as a reporter with the New York Times. Prior to joining that newspaper's staff she worked as a foreign correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Newsweek, reporting on military and civilian matters throughout Asia and covering the Gulf War.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Catherine Manegold, author of In Glory's Shadow

Q: What drew you to the Shannon Faulkner/Citadel case that led to the writing of this book?

A:
I grew up in a family that fought bitterly over the whole counter-culture movement of the 1960s. My parents saw the chaos triggered by that era as the death of discipline and social order. By the time I graduated from college in 1977 I was convinced that the major issues raised then concerning race and gender were mostly resolved. But twenty-five years later I found myself in Tokyo watching from afar as Americans clashed again over abortion rights and women's rights, affirmative action and the issues of sexual harassment raised by Anita Hill. The arguments I knew so well from my own family's dinner table replayed; only now I heard them not only voiced by conservatives in America but by many Japanese who, while enjoying the benefits of a bubble economy, looked across the Pacific and concluded that our nation had critically wounded itself as an economic competitor by tinkering too much with social norms. Steeped in that rhetoric and fascinated by what I was seeing at home I decided to return and look more deeply at those issues from the perspective of an adult, not as a teenager challenging my parents' world. In 1994, I covered the Faulkner case for The New York Times. I was drawn to it because it was a human story and deeper and far more personal than just the court drama that dominated the news. From the start, it seemed to offer a unique chance to look behind the rhetoric and at the terrible emotions that so often fuel it. But I was drawn to it too, I suppose, because it was my own story in so many ways. My family's arguments were never really won or lost. We had merely left them hanging.

Q: How and why was the Citadel founded?

A:
The Citadel, loosely speaking, was founded in 1822 as a private militia to protect Charleston's ruling white elite. In that year a former slave named Denmark Vesey organized blacks from all across South Carolina's low country to conduct a terrible rampage, killing every white person they could catch. But their plot was exposed. The revolt never happened. The instigators were tried and then hanged. After that scare, Charleston's leaders called for a "Citadel" to protect their interests and estates. From that time until the Civil War poor white boys were called to town to act as racial guards. In 1842, following the example of the Virginia Military Institute, The Citadel was reconfigured as a school. Cadets who marched and wore the ring still had authority over free blacks and slaves -- though none over whites. But now they also found a foothold among the city's pampered few. So began a deep tradition. Cadets used the school as a springboard to the business class. The wealthy in return enjoyed those graduates' loyalty and often a lifetime's faithful and disciplined service, too.

Q: Why did Shannon Faulkner want to attend the Citadel?

A:
I'm not sure that Shannon ever wanted to march at The Citadel as much as she wanted to throw a cinder in its eye. She wanted to challenge it's male-only admissions policies and prove -- at least on paper -- that she was just as good a candidate as any boy who ever walked in through those gates. When her application was accepted, she had her proof on paper. But when that decision was rescinded (after college officials learned that she was female), Shannon filed a law suit to further press her point. Everyone in South Carolina knew The Citadel was a powerful club. For her, it was a lark to challenge it at first. She was angry that a public school could bar her on the basis of sex. "It was the first time anybody ever told me 'No,' just because I was a girl," she said in court. But when she walked into that battle both sides were already engaged. The Justice Department was busy suing the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) for sex discrimination. And long before Shannon's name ever surfaced three female Navy veterans from the Charleston area sued The Citadel for denying them access to an engineering program tailored to their male colleagues needs. The Navy women's case was closed when Citadel officials shut the whole veterans' engineering program down rather than crack the door open for females. That left Shannon to carry the torch alone. And with both sides already at war and millions of dollars already spent it would have been almost impossible to back out.

Q: Was this case a straightforward sex discrimination case?

A:
The case was fairly straightforward. But it was fought incredibly hard. In the end, it was not resolved until the Supreme Court ruled in the VMI matter that women had an equal right to march. One year later -- a year after Shannon Faulkner dropped out -- four women started with the freshman class. Two of them dropped out at Christmas, charging that they had been hazed. The subsequent year twenty or more women started as Citadel freshmen and now college officials say that admissions numbers are up across the board.

Q: How has the Shannon Faulkner suit changed or affected other single-sex institutions in this country?

A:
Citadel officials at one time raised a great clamor that private women's colleges would see their federal funding threatened if the case was resolved in women's favor. But in fact there are no signs of that. The systems that we have in place are pretty good at differentiating between the public and the private spheres. So more than anything I think this case served as a warning, or maybe even as a swan song for those who think they can keep the clocks turned back. Still, there are a few final frontiers. The language of the law was not changed in the VMI decision. Today, just as it was before, women are allowed equal rights under something called "intermediate scrutiny," a term which means that courts should look at charges of discrimination on the basis of gender with special attention but not quite the "strict scrutiny" allowed in cases of race. The distinction is important, and perhaps best understood in a military context. Female soldiers and aviators are not allowed to take part in combat missions, for example. Though in reality the unique requirements of modern military operations sometimes now make that distinction blur, the language of the law has been preserved because it gives judges the latitude to take such biological differences such as pregnancy into account. Faulkner's lawyers argued in favor of "strict" scrutiny for women. If it had been granted, the fallout from the case would have been far broader. Instead, the Supreme Court reinforced existing lines.

Q: Although women and gays have broken the gender and sex barrier in the military, Clinton and the Pentagon are still under attack for the "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" policy. Is this policy changing?

A:
Well, of course it's under review. The Pentagon will be examining the language of that rule -- and its effectiveness -- for the next 90 days. But where that matter intersects with The Citadel is not so much in the policy itself as in the grossness with which it encourages lies within a system that is supposedly committed to honor and integrity. The case that brought the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy to the fore was the murder of a soldier following months of homophobic taunts and harassment that was ignored or perhaps even tacitly encouraged by those in positions of leadership. The Pentagon's policy left that soldier in a terrible bind. If he "came out" in the course of challenging his accusers he would have likely been punished by being expelled from the service himself. Only by remaining silent was he allowed to hold his job. At The Citadel, cadets who complain about hazing are almost always subjected to intensified abuse. Like the slain soldier, victims -- especially freshmen -- who object to their treatment are almost invariably further victimized. That dynamic gives them several choices. They could leave, and be branded a coward or failure. They could make their complaint and suffer escalated abuse. Or they can keep quiet and hope it all just goes away. It's easy to see which course usually wins out. But silence carries the cost of allowing the abuse to continue, indeed almost to seem condoned.

Q: Hazing is something that freshmen students in colleges and universities across the country endure. What sort of hazing went on at the Citadel? Does it still occur?

A:
It would take a full day to answer that question and at the end of it you would only have a list of disturbing and obscene events that even the victims would probably deny had ever happened. Suffice it to say that three separate internal reviews have described a system that consistently deprives freshmen of food and sleep, singles out sick or weak cadets for intensified harassment, and encourages meaningless and sometimes sadistic rituals that leave students so weak, exhausted and disoriented in their first year that they are almost impossible to teach. "Hell with a purpose," was how the former public relations director described it in Shannon Faulkner's year. "Like a POW camp," said one of the girls who stayed the year after. Some graduates describe the torment as "necessary medicine" on a path to the closest relationships they will form in all their lives. But to me the record of this behavior is only tragic. Boys -- and now girls -- who arrive at those gates hoping for honor, achievement and self-discipline deserve something better than a system that promises structure but delivers degradation and verbal and sometimes physical abuse. The new president, John Grinalds, has promised reforms. But I'm in no position to say whether or not they are working.

Q: What do you think of the recent spate of violence in schools and institutions that has been erupting across the country?

A:
A student I spoke with recently in New York City made an interesting observation about violence among people her same age. She was talking about hazing at her high school and made the comment that the kids she worried about most were not the ones who were physically hurt or even beaten up by school bullies but those who felt entirely left out. The kids who got hurt, she said, at least felt that they were a part of something. They felt that they belonged. The Citadel provides that same dynamic and reward. There, too, it's the students who are isolated, the "lone wolves" who are persistently humiliated and deprived of peer support, who have the hardest time. I think it is our challenge as adults to identify those kids wherever they are and however they came to that pass and try to listen and establish deep connections. It sounds simple. But it's not. As a species we have long established our identity in our differences. Our challenge now is to find the ties that bind, and honor those as well.

Q: What more can the government do to help eradicate sexism and hate?

A:
Sound laws fairly and consistently applied go a long way in that. If our laws are just and their observance consistent then the rest of the struggle is really up to each of us, at our dinner tables, with our children, with our friends and in our own hearts. A government cannot dictate morality. Nor can it decree harmony. But it can and must be strong enough to identify and live up to its stated ideals. In America those ideals have long since been written. Any citizen has just to stroll through Washington, D.C.'s many monuments -- something I did often as a way to clear my head while working on this book -- and read the inscriptions etched in all that white marble to be reminded what a heroic and fine challenge we have set before ourselves as a nation. All that's really asked of us is to live up to goals that are already very clear.

Q: What is next on the horizon for you?

A:
After four years of relative isolation spent working on this book I think I'm ready again for the tumble of daily events and the struggle to invest them with both meaning and humanity. So I guess I'll be picking up a reporter's notebook, and one of my old ink pens, and heading back into the world.




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?A must-read for those interested in how one of the nation?s last all-male bastions was breached.??USA Today

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