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In Glory's Shadow by Catherine S. Manegold
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In Glory's Shadow

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In Glory's Shadow by Catherine S. Manegold
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Jan 09, 2001 | ISBN 9780679767145

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  • Jan 09, 2001 | ISBN 9780679767145

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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

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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 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?

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?

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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