Originally created 08/31/97

Attrition rate at Citadel doubles



CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Attrition among freshmen after one week at The Citadel is twice last year's rate, but President John S. Grinalds said he's not concerned. The 5.5 percent drop out rate is about the same as it was two years ago.

"I'm just very optimistic about the outcome," Mr. Grinalds said. "The final attrition figure is what's most important and how we do over the whole year."

He said the 528 freshmen, including 18 women, who remain at the military college are doing well.

"You hate like the devil to lose one cadet, but in our system it's difficult to avoid," said Emory Mace, the top Citadel administrator who oversees military training and discipline.

Federal law protects students' records and school officials will not release the names of those who have dropped out.

Brett Strand, the top-ranking senior cadet, expressed disappointment with the number of resignations so far, but was optimistic about the attitude of those who remain.

"We want (freshmen) to find cohesion and a class bond, and from what I can see, we're off to a good start," Mr. Strand said.

Aside from two male cadets who quit and complained of mistreatment - one incident was dismissed as unfounded, the other is under investigation - the college said students who withdrew this week disliked the structured campus life The Citadel demands.

"They mostly said they can't adapt to military life. That happens here a lot the first week. Hopefully, we're going to be able to do something about that," Mr. Mace said.

Mr. Mace, a retired one-star general in the U.S. Army, and his boss, Mr. Grinalds, have their sights set on new recruiting strategies.

Mr. Mace wants to make a new video that would include a broader spectrum of activities next year's freshmen can expect.

"We want them to get an accurate picture of what life is like here," Mr. Mace said. "Too often we hear knobs say they came here and didn't know what to expect."

Citadel cadets call freshmen knobs, which comes from the appearance of the close-cropped haircuts.

"Pre-knob weekend" visits by high school students also will be scrapped.

"We want to get away from them coming here and seeing a pretty parade (each Friday afternoon) and then going out on the town having a good time," Mr. Mace said.

Weekend visits will be replaced by midweek overnight stays, when high school students can see knobs marching double time in the gutter along the Avenue of Remembrance, sitting stiffly at attention during meals, rising before dawn for physical fitness training and sitting at their desks through a long night known as "evening study period."

"I want them to see the school as it really is, warts and all," Mr. Mace said.

Citadel officials estimate 1,800 undergraduates will enroll in the Corps of Cadets for the coming academic year, which starts Wednesday. All returning cadets not involved in training freshmen must report back to campus tonight.