Even on the best of days, survival as a freshman cadet during "hell week" at The Citadel is not easy.
Last year, 61 freshmen cadets, called "knobs" because of their shaved heads, gave up their dream of wearing The Citadel ring after only 10 days, which was one of the highest attrition rates ever.The cadets' regimental commander, Matt Pantsari of Irmo, S.C., said Sunday that 35 cadets, including Shannon Faulkner, had left the Citadel. They were among the 592 who reported a week earlier.
Faulkner won a federal court battle to be the first woman admitted to the corps of cadets in the college's 152-year history. But she lasted through only a half-day of military training before reporting to the infirmary, where she stayed until she withdrew on Friday.
Faulkner said it was stress, not the 102-degree heat, that felled her. The bottled-up tension of two and a half years of court battles brought on unrelenting nausea, she said. But she was not alone in succumbing early to the pressures of freshmen hazing.
On the day she fell out of India Company's ranks with knots in her stomach, four male cadets were treated for heat-related illnesses. Three spent the night in the infirmary, as did Faulkner.
Tough physical demands and stern discipline result in a high dropout rate in the first few days of the school year, Citadel officials said, but last year's figure of 61 was high.
In 1993, 45 students left in the first 10 days; in 1992, it was 49. Citadel officials say they generally expect a sophomore class to be 15 percent smaller than when it reported a year earlier. They said that was about the same as for other four-year colleges.
The training regime is designed to leave only those who are willing to endure the rigorous military discipline and physical training to become a Citadel man.
"Individuals do not make it here," Col. Joseph Trez, the commandant of cadets, told the knobs on their first day in training. "If you want to stay an individual, every day will be a tough day."
Cadets who want to leave the corps are counseled by senior cadets, who then hand them over to the commandant.
"As of today, not a single cadet has stated any mistreatment that caused them to leave," Pantsari said. "It was all personal reasons."