CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) The Citadel canceled classes on Tuesday so its 1,700 cadets could learn how to get along with the women among them, everything from avoiding demeaning language to not barging in on their barracks doors.
“Diversity Awareness Day,” sensitivity training on the importance of women, was ordered as the formerly all-male military college reels from allegations that two female cadets left because they were hazed and harassed.
“It’s no longer that men are the bosses and the women follow orders,” said Faye Crosby, a professor at all-female Smith College in Northampton, Mass. “You need to learn how to work with people who don’t look exactly like you.”
Classes were canceled and gray-uniformed cadets marched to the school’s field house for the daylong training, beginning with lectures about gender awareness.
Sandra Thomas, the president of all-female Converse College in Spartanburg, said boys learn to be competitive while girls learn to be nurturing.
“Women must understand the culture of men, and men must understand the culture of women,” she said.
But as the day wore on, such vast concepts were boiled down to concrete questions: Should female cadets wear skirts? Should sunbathing be allowed outside the barracks?
And should there be latches on barracks doors?
“Oh yes, absolutely,” said Petra Lovetinska, one of two remaining female cadets at the college. “I had several people just walk in without knocking.”
The Citadel dropped a bitter court fight to stay all-male and enrolled four female cadets in August after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a similar all-male policy at Virginia Military Institute was unconstitutional.
Two of the women, Jeanie Mentavlos and Kim Messer, left after the first semester, alleging among other things that male cadets forced them to drink alcohol and set their clothes on fire.
The school has disciplined 14 male cadets and state officials and the FBI are still investigating possible criminal violations.
Senior cadet Sean McBride said he thought the sessions would help.
“We need to stop worrying about being the last class” of men, he said. “We have this old corps group that wants to live in the past. We need to be looking at the fact we’re the first and be proud of it.”
Thirty-five women have been accepted for this fall’s freshman class, and 12 have already indicated they will attend. As many as five upperclass female cadets from Texas A&M may also be on campus in the fall as exchange students.