Hazing illegal but persistent – hazing of women cadets at the Virginia Military Institute

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The kind of hazing that allegedly happened to
two female cadets at The Citadel in recent months is nothing new.

Jeanie Mentavlos of Charlotte, N.C., and Kim Messer of Clover,
S.C., alleged that they were physically and verbally hazed by
upperclassmen after suffering stress fractures that exempted them from
rigorous marching and other military training. The alleged hazings were
made public December 13 and college administrators asked the State Law
Enforcement Division and the FBI to investigate.

Although school regulations and state law prohibit the practice,
allegations of hazing incidents have persisted. Some cases have been
reported, but others have taken years to be told. Thirty years ago, The
Citadel’s first Black cadet, Charles D. Foster, was the alleged victim
of abuse but only a few of his classmates would say it publicly.

Messer’s father reported that a Citadel upperclassman used a rifle
to shove the two female freshmen against a barracks wall. There were
also allegations that someone squirted liquid nail polish remover on
their clothing and ignited it. Two male cadets were suspended and five
others were relieved of their duties because of the incidents.

The other two female cadets, Petra Lovetinska, a Czech national
from Washington, D.C., and Nancy Mace of Goose Creek, S.C. have not
reported any hazing incidents.

The four females were admitted to The Citadel last fall after the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer that Virginia Military Institute’s
all-male admissions policy was unconstitutional. The Citadel and
Virginia Military Institute were the last two state-supported all-male
colleges.

The first year for freshmen — or knobs, as they are called at the
academy — has been traditionally tough, combining intense physical
training and psychological confrontation along with the daily class
work. However, some upperclassmen have taken the confrontational aspect
to the extreme. As a result, the fourth-class system has been
scrutinized a number of times in the past two decades — including in
1968, two years after Foster’s arrival.

The system had to be revamped in 1991 after the Lane Report found
that even upperclassmen are hazing victims. The Junior Sword Drill team
was terminated because a junior cadet tryout was physically abused by
another cadet. The system was also put under a microscope in 1980, 1976
and 1972.

It is unclear if Messer and Mentavlos will return to the
military-style college after the holiday break. Nevertheless. The
Citadel will post adult supervisors overnight in all barracks —
including Padgett-Thomas Barracks, where Messer and Mentavlos were
members of Echo Company — starting in January in wake of the
allegations.

It’s important we restore some order and discipline in the system
we have.” said James Jones, chairman of the school’s Board of Visitors.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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