Originally created 01/16/97

Citadel leadership under fire



An Augustan, who once led The Citadel's cadets and now represents its graduates, said alumni are ashamed the school hasn't cracked down on whoever's responsible for hazing or harassing two female cadets.

"I feel that the leadership, from the board to the president to the administrative staff should have been on top of this quicker than they were," said Hampton J. Walker, president of the 18,000-member Association of Citadel Men.

"They should have dealt with it quicker and they should have corrected it," he said Wednesday from his Augusta home. "Not dealing with it does not solve it.

"You can't allow hazing to exist."

Kim Messer of Clover, S.C., and Jeanie Mentavlos of Charlotte, N.C., allege that male cadets set their clothes afire, put cleanser in their mouths and shoved them, among other things. They chose not to return to the military college this semester, saying on Sunday they no longer felt safe or welcome.

The two women plan to transfer to the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Classes started Monday, but Friday is the enrollment deadline.

Attorney Tim Kulp said Ms. Mentavlos' brother Michael, who also quit, will finish his senior course work at the College of Charleston.

Mr. Walker said that interim Citadel President Clifton Poole's speech vowing to restore the school's reputation was unconvincing. "Don't give us heritage and tradition," he said. "Do something about the problems."

In some instances, Mr. Walker said, school officials have put more effort into polishing the school's tarnished image than dealing with the hazing allegations and preventing harassment.

"Public relations will deal with itself if you take care of the problems," he said. "That's the cart before the horse."

Mr. Walker, former president of Castleberry's and a former cadet regimental commander, said alumni are outraged at the hazing allegations and have questioned why the school hasn't taken better steps to identify and punish responsible cadets.

"The alumni are embarrassed," he said. "They love that school, they came from that school and they benefited from that school."

Though The Citadel is often rigorous, hazing and physical abuse have never been part of the recipe for building strong cadets, Mr. Walker said.

"When I was there, there was no hazing. I never hazed anyone and was never hazed myself," the 1953 graduate said. "That is not leadership. That is sadistic behavior."

Mr. Poole said he takes responsibility for what happened to the women. But, he added, "I can't imagine how anyone would question my resolve."

"Every graduate thinks they know how to run the corps better," Mr. Poole said. "A lot of people don't even understand the corps, the parameters of what's going on or the rules."

However, Mr. Walker holds the leadership responsible for failing to prevent or stop the alleged abuse.

"If there is a problem with hazing and it's not dealt with, it gets bigger," he said. "The system works because it polices itself. When the leadership does not get on top of (a problem) quickly enough, the system fails."

Eleven male cadets have been charged with violating Citadel rules and regulations. Two cadets have been temporarily suspended pending a review. The others face undetermined punishment.

Citadel officials have said they are waiting for the FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division to finish investigating the women's allegations.

Associated Press reports were used in this story.