Citadel: 4 Four upperclass cadets leave school, 20 disciplined in hazing and other incidents

Four upperclass Citadel cadets have left school “voluntarily” and 20 others have been disciplined after the institution investigated some 85 allegations, many involving student hazing, the school announced late Friday afternoon.

In a statement released in response to a query by The State newspaper, The Citadel said it had received 85 allegations, ranging “from minor infractions to more serious allegations” involving students.

The school received the allegations after the commandant of cadets at The Citadel, Capt. Geno Paluso, held a Feb. 8 meeting with all freshman cadets “to remind them of their duty to report any instances of hazing. He gave them until noon the next day to report violations or face possible disciplinary action,” the statement said.

“The commandant’s message to the freshmen was not new. Lt. Gen. John Rosa, The Citadel’s president, and Capt. Paluso discussed the college’s prohibitions against hazing in detail in several meetings with all cadets during the fall semester. Capt. Paluso, who became commandant in mid-2014 after retiring as a Navy SEAL commander, did this to let the cadets know he is serious about the issue,” said the statement, issued by Brett Ashworth, vice president for communications and marketing.

“The commandant’s office is currently investigating the other allegations and handling them expeditiously,” the statement said.

“Since his tenure as president began in 2006, Lt. Gen. Rosa has repeatedly reminded cadets that there is no place for hazing at The Citadel or in the practice of servant leadership. Additionally, he reminds them they may spend time away from school, either permanently or temporarily, if they haze. Every year, freshmen are briefed on their duty to report hazing, required to sign documents agreeing to the policy upon enrollment, and attend mandatory leadership and ethics courses,” the statement said.

According to The Citadel’s Internet site, the school’s student body numbers 2,300, with 1,230 from South Carolina. More than 90 percent of the students are male. In the past four years, U.S. News and World Report has ranked the school the top public regional university. It has more than 20,000 alumni and is a lobbying force in the S.C. General Assembly. Citadel graduates are known for assisting each other in politics and business.

Part of The Citadel’s military culture has been allowing upperclass cadets to discipline “knobs,” or freshman. Without more details, it is not possible to know how excessive the actions were of those who were disciplined.

Over the years, periodic newspaper stories have examined Citadel hazing and described it as a deeply rooted part of the school’s culture. In military settings such as the Marines and even The Citadel, some justify rough treatment bordering on brutal, saying it weeds out the weak and toughens those who remain for the rigors of life-and-death combat, since many graduates go on to stints in the military.

In 1980, former Citadel cadet and nationally known novelist Pat Conroy published “Lords of Discipline,” a novel in which brutal hazing at a Charleston military college was a crucial element of the plot. Conroy was ostracized for years for publicizing the hidden practice.

In part because of such publicity, Citadel officials have tried to implement well-defined rules on what upperclassmen can and cannot do to first-year cadets when it comes to discipline.

Paluso’s SEAL training is by all accounts some of the most brutal military training there is, with only a handful of every 100 candidates who begin each class making it to the finish.

Rosa, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, is a Citadel graduate and a former commander of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter. He also previously served as superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.