The Citadel: An Ex-Cadet's View

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by ExKnob107, Jun 9, 2014.

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  1. ExKnob107

    ExKnob107 New Member

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    Hello,

    I wanted to give the people on this forum the full view of The Citadel. Like many of you I applied to service academies in high school and frequented this site.

    To give a very brief background, I received a Senator's nomination to West Point, but was not selected. I instead took a 4-year Army scholarship to The Citadel. A former JROTC cadet, I was very motivated towards the goal of commissioning and wanted nothing more than to be a successful officer with a quality education.

    I do not mean to bash any Citadel cadets; I met plenty of quality individuals after reporting as a knob with the class of 2016. Individuals. After Hell Week I learned the system was the opposite of how they advertised it, and I will outline this below.

    Academics: The Citadel boasts one of the best tutoring centers in the nation. While this is great, the attitude of the upperclassmen who will be controlling you is extremely un-academic. I took 19 credits as a first semester knob, but quickly learned I would have extremely little time to study due to the random, time-wasting assignments we were given by the sophomore class. We would spend close to an hour a day shining brass buckles and shoes, and would have to complete 'writing assignments' if we failed to meet the standard. Most of us got close to five hours of sleep a night, myself probably less because I was contracted and had PT at 0500 most mornings. 5 weekends a semester were SMI, which was an inspection we were forced to spend the entire night cleaning for. They would check. The sleep deprivation was so bad I hallucinated and collapsed. We could not use the barracks for studying without being sent on 'errands' or 'knob missions' by upperclassmen, and yet we were punished for using the library. Unofficially, of course.

    Athletics: If you are an athlete, you will be hated. The upperclassmen do not like the idea of anyone having special privileges, even if earned. They will teach your class to look down on you.

    Training: The ROTC unit was great. I learned a lot and enjoyed training with them. As to Cadet life, this is where it gets strange. Since the school came under scrutiny for hazing, the upperclassmen have been officially unable to haze the knobs as a class. I recognize that in the past, certain practices were done to the class as a whole, in order to strengthen them and bring them together. Nothing like that happened in my company. We were divided into cliques and made to hate the weakest of the group. The upperclassmen selected the cadets who would not tell if hazed, and hazed them privately. They would be punished when one of us screwed up (i.e. not having uniform perfect at the three-per-day inspections). Eventually someone walked in on a hazing situation and two sophomores in my company got expelled.

    To give a sample of what they did do: Each Friday we would march in parade for an hour. Add the half hour of uniform prep before and the three hours of scrubbing the floor we did after. Before dinner we would have to sprint back and forth in the barracks or up the steps for twenty minutes. After dinner we once spun in place for half an hour, and I still have no idea why. We typically had weekend leave, except those with tours. A tour is a fifty minute period of walking back and forth on the quad, with a rifle. They usually give them ten at a time. I missed a guard shift and got ten. Ten hours of life, wasted. For drinking in the barracks, you would get 120. Yes. Close to 120 hours gone.

    The Future: Much change is currently taking place within the Citadel. But old habits die hard. The upperclassmen in my company still resented women, the religious, and (in other companies) certain races. You will likely face warring factions: the one is insane and will encourage/force you to sacrifice grades in order to have a better looking uniform. The other (TACs, the official rules, Human Affairs cadets) will be very friendly, but you will be hated by your class for following them.

    Conclusion: I finished knob year and was recognized. Note that even after recognition you will still have very little respect. Sophomores are despised within the corps. Luckily I avoided this as I transferred to the University of South Carolina, where I am continuing ROTC. I had to forfeit the ROTC Scholarship, however. I am now an SMP Cadet (ROTC and National Guard) and will still commission in 2016.

    Again, I had the pleasure of meeting some truly helpful people at The Citadel, both cadets and TACS, whom I could not have made it through without. I just want prospective cadets to know what it is like first so they do not end up giving away a full scholarship like I did.

    More info: I encourage prospective cadets to visit the Broken Gray Line on tumblr. I have written for them in the past.
     
  2. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006 5-Year Member

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    Preface: I didn't go to the Citadel.

    What you're describing isn't that far off from my experience during my 4/c year at the Coast Guard Academy, but I think I view some of your situations differenly.

    Academics: This may be the biggest difference in my experience (different school). At CGA while academics weren't easy, tutoring WAS encouraged and upperclass would check in to make sure you were doing well (or if you weren't, that you were getting the help you needed). I think from everything you said, that's the biggest difference between my experience. But that does not mean we were given tons of dumb stuff to do. Often swabs were overloaded, but purely for the enjoyment of their upperclassmen, but because multitasting is a VERY real skill we had to learn before we got to the fleet (and the need to multitask increased exponentially when I got to my cutter).

    Athletics: I have trouble understanding how privledges are earned that early and I'm not surprised people are hated for taking advantage of it. It eats away at "we're all in the same boat" mentality... and this isn't unique to the Citadel.

    Training: Some of it feels stupid (and some of it really is) but a lot of that training has importance.... you just don't realize it until farther down that road (especially when it's your turn to train new folks). Honestly, I tried to forget most of my first year. But at the same time, when you screw up, you should pay for it. Missing duty? Drinking where you can't drink? Sure, you should lose some hours.... in the service the punishment is worse.... and in the private sector you could easily lose your job.

    Your first year at a service academy or senior military college is NOT going to be fun. You will have little reason to praise it, the reality of each school will hit you (that it's not a shining beacon and your classmates aren't all "the best and the brightest" and neither are you) but after you get through it, life improves a bit. It's still worse than your high school days, but it's better than that first year. And then each year it gets better. Not GOOD, but better. And then, eventually, it feels a little normal.... and then you leave.
     
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  3. glen

    glen 5-Year Member

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    ExKnob107

    Sorry you had the experience you did, but glad for your sake you made a quick decision to move on and have no regrets. What you describe sounds not too different than 40 years ago or the experience of several relatives who attended USNA. You are not alone in feeling sorry for yourself during the first year at a military college. Military college is not for everyone. If you stick with the ROTC at USC, I hope your military service will be rewarding. I am also a Gamecock (Law 75). At South Carolina you will want to attend football and basketball games instead of being required to attend!

    Indeed, the Cadet experience is full of seemingly meaningless tasks. However, the common experience of overcoming adversity is what builds the class bonds that last a life time. The 4th Class system is not perfect, because it is administered by imperfect young men and women, barely a year or two older than first year cadets. But it is a system in which to learn how to lead (and how not to lead), and more importantly about yourself. As far as the academics being a challenge on top of the ROTC and Cadet training, well this is the point of time and organizational management. Trust me, life outside of The Citadel (or USC) does not get any easier unless you win the lottery. Best of luck to you.
     
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  4. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe 5-Year Member

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    ExKnob107,

    Very little is written from your point of view, I hope your post is taken how it was meant.

    As others have said, Academies and SMC's are not for everyone, and that's ok. There are those that will thrive in that environment and those that want nothing to do with it. Your post shows a different side of things, or at least a different perspective. I think it's a good idea for everyone considering a SMC to explore all sides and hear different perspectives so they have a better idea of what they're getting into.

    Best of luck at U of South Carolina and with ROTC.
     
  5. ExKnob107

    ExKnob107 New Member

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    afterword

    Thank you all for weighing in. I entered the Citadel in a transitioning phase. My experience was much different from Pat Conroy's account in Lords of Discipline. Oddly, I read the book before matriculating, and that did not in any way deter me. I think this is because the ordeals the knobs/plebes in the book faced were shared by the class. Maybe this is because what hazing occurred then was a group experience. In my company it did more to divide the knobs into factions (mo-tards and s***-outs) than to unify them.

    My hope for the future is that there can be some kind of balance. I have nothing against a tough system. But grades are a priority too, and there are better ways to implement it. I'm sure my time in the military will give me a better view.

    And by the way USC is phenomenal! Go Cocks!
     
  6. Lot115

    Lot115 Member

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    To the Ex- Cadet/ Anyone planning on attending El Cid:

    I am a current cadet. I am a female, Marine contract, and athlete. It is true that females are frowned upon by many, if not most. The same is true of athletes. As you said we are singled out and athletes/ females/ minorities (in some companies) are looked down on by upperclassmen and that attitude is passed on the knobs in each class.

    In order to address the poster who was confused about athletes/ privileges at The Citadel-
    Athletes are SEEN to have "privileges" due to the fact that we have afternoon practice and are therefore not in the barracks when our classmates are for upperclassmen to find and send on errands. In addition, athletes often have to leave campus for competitions/ matches/ games. Cadets that are not athletes see the buses/ vans leaving and only consider the fact that the cadets are leaving, not that they are going away to represent our institution. There are of course many different sides to this argument and many more facts but my goal is to not start a discussion about athletes! :)

    While I am glad that you made the decision that was correct for you, I wish you could have stayed. There is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes that we do not often see as knobs. Individuals within companies are making an effort to promote a better system. Often you can set a good example by just doing the right thing yourself- eventually others do notice. Next year the Corps is planning more unit PT events in order to promote the unity and fitness of all cadets. It may not seem like it now, but the system is getting better. I urge all prospective cadets to enter The Citadel ready to take on the challenge of building together a class that will be the best yet. The school changes every year, but with this change is the opportunity to change for the better.

    From the concerns that you shared about El Cid it is my humble opinion that you will make a great Army officer and I am sure that you will do your best to promote positive leadership throughout your unit. I am glad that your experience at The Citadel did not deter you from the military- because it is nothing like the armed forces. Best of luck in your future endeavors.
     
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  7. Rufus90

    Rufus90 New Member

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    Ex-Knob,

    I am a Citadel alumnus, and older than you. Like you, I was extremely motivated to join the military and to go through all of the rigors. I come from a military family and know all about boot camps and corporal punishment from childhood.

    Academics: I was offered a full scholarship from the ROTC unit during knob year, but since I already had a full academic scholarship that I would not have to pay back if the worst happened and I failed out of school, I opted to forego the ROTC scholarship. That said, my grades were extremely important to me because I would not have been able to afford college without the scholarship.
    I had been disappointed in anything less than 100% on anything in grade school. Knob year was a rude awakening because I worked so hard to earn my first C. I am envious that you averaged 5 hours of sleep per night, but am not devaluing your suffering at all. I know I slept all summer following knob year. My knob year academic officer went above and beyond to maintain the peace of Evening Study Period, so we did not have to go to the library. However, I know that during my time there, future academic officers did not hold ESP as sacred. It seems you had one of those classes in leadership roles.
    I would advise any future students to be protective of their own study time. Accept any ostracism for the sake of your grades because good grades in a good program will probably get you a job after these four years, but being able to sweep and run stairs will not help as much for your 50-80 years of life after The Citadel.

    Athletics: The other knobs despise athletic knobs for being able to eat. Then there is also the "fraternization" necessary for the proper melding of a team on the field. Also, the Corps doesn't think that the Athletic knobs had a proper "Hell Week" because they had it a month prior to their classmates since they have to report early. I was not in athletics, but I did not hate them. They seemed to work just as hard as the rest of the Corps and in some cases, like some of the men and women I respect most, worked harder and did better.

    Training: I was also in an ROTC unit and the Field Training Exercise weekends really did a number on me. Academically, there was no time for homework. I didn't take "supplements" like a lot of cadets did (I didn't find out that was common until senior year, but by that time, I was no longer taking 19-22 hours).

    You're right, a lot of things done to knobs are pointless. I made a point to only demand activities that were useful once I was a junior and senior. I also made it a point to discourage ostracism (not corrective action however--classmates can help each other). In my opinion, that kind of teaching encourages sheep-like mentality and builds a solid foundation for a Nazi-ripe society. I'll have to say that since I was in as many extra-curricular activities as I could fit in my schedule in high school, I continued doing so at The Citadel. I was deemed a bad cadet because I wasn't available for every sweep detail despite being worn to the bone when I finally went to bed at 3am each night. It got better and worse when you became an upperclassman and have to be the one in charge of these tasks, but at least my experience taught me to not discriminate against cadets who had to leave early because they were going on a ruck run with their ROTC unit.

    I served some punishments. Honestly, I can't remember why, but it must have been something mundane since I didn't have many. I thought Confinements were a wonderful opportunity to study, and Tours were a great opportunity to hear the gossip from upperclassmen because the ones getting punished really didn't care about sharing gossip with knobs. It's about perspective, really.

    The Future: I have been out of The Citadel for a while now and the best analogy I can think for it is the Earth. The surface may look different, but underneath, it will always be the same churning chaos. There is only one tradition that has been maintained since it started and that is a small, network of old, white men and their legacies in a fraternity. Minorities and "changes" in the school are for keeping the positive public opinion. I know it is common on campus, and even at reunion gatherings, to be subjected to hours of racist or misogynist jokes, and if you can't put up with it, you were ostracized. I was surprised to learn that the real military officers had more class and wit, and didn't bombard you with that type of talk.

    Conclusion: I learned and grew up a lot in my four years at The Citadel. It was absolutely miserable except for the first and last semesters, but I would absolutely attend again if I were 18 and choosing my future school. No state school could have done for me what The Citadel did. In retrospect, I handled a lot of bad situations in my life well because The Citadel made me so miserable. It really is trial by fire and when you graduate, you will truly be a harder person than when you went in, ready for the adult world.

    Women, I recently heard about an unfortunate incident involving an organization owned by a Citadel alumnus and a couple. When the husband (a Citadel alumnus) contacted the organization, he was helped with THE best customer service. When the wife (also a Citadel alumnus) contacted the organization, she never heard back from them. Like everything, there are some bad apples among cadets and alumni alike, but there are also some good ones. So don't be surprised and don't be deterred. Honestly, I think the women were hardest on each other at The Citadel, but are better once they don't have the pressure of trying to prove the whole gender to the men judging them. I'm sure it's because they are trying to prove that they can't be run out like Shannon Faulkner was. It will be hard, I can promise you that, but you can do it and it gets better (not easier though) with each brave woman who graduates.

    I also didn't hear from my family except for the special family-invited weekends and my birthday during my entire time there, so I didn't have the support that many of my classmates had, but that made me more independent after graduation. It is easier to move several states away or even to the other side of the world.

    I did form strong bonds with a few people on campus. In high school, I had many friends, but after college, I had a few really good friends, and just as importantly, a useful degree with a well-paying job.
     
  8. Major_Jared

    Major_Jared Member

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    I would like somebody who has attended Norwich University to outline their experience there.
     
  9. repatriot

    repatriot Banned

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    Having worked briefly at The Citadel, I am the first to admit that I am not an expert on the place (nor do I ever want to be). In all honesty and to be blunt, I was very unimpressed and underwhelmed with the institution overall. In my short time there, I had some great colleagues and interacted with many outstanding cadets, but I went in expecting much more than what I found.
     
  10. glen

    glen 5-Year Member

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    repatriot - please tell us why you think such a highly subjective comment is helpful to high school students and parents to understand the college better and make decisions? Since you felt compelled to comment about a college you did not graduate from - please disclose the college you did graduate from. And be specific on why you were underwhelmed. In what regard - was there specific academic programs that disappointed you? Were you an ROTC instructor - and disappointed in a particular Program? These would be helpful to understand whether your post was intended to help students and parents - or just an attempt to bash a school. Thank you in advance.
     
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  11. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe 5-Year Member

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    You all realize this thread is nearly 3 years old and the original poster has graduated and commissioned close to a year ago.

    ....and Glen, did you really have to ask to know the answer to that question?
     
  12. repatriot

    repatriot Banned

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    Jcleppe--thanks for pointing out the date on this. Thought it was more recent but will read more closely next time! Glen, Thank you for your question. I PM'd you specifics. Please PM if you need more, happy to discuss further. As I stated, my observations are just one viewpoint. I had prior knowledge/experiences at other SMCs and SAs, and I expected more, perhaps better, from this institution going in. Maybe I just set the bar too high based on previous experiences. As this forum aims to answer questions and share viewpoints/observations; ExKnob107 shared observations and so did I. ExKnob107 arrived with expectations, was disappointed, and so was I... hence my comment. Not school bashing, just observations which may be of some use to students and/or parents alike. As these discussions can be highly subjective, please take my observations for what they're worth. Once again, I do not claim to be an expert, nor am I bashing the school (and certainly not the cadets... they were great for the most part). PM'd specific observations to you, Glen, instead of placing on public forum... hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
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  13. glen

    glen 5-Year Member

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    Yes, thanks repatriate. Saw your comments and actually many are quite fair and we can agree on some of the points. Best regards.
     
  14. conrack

    conrack Member

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    so how is it this post was put up if its old news, seems a little suspicious. And repatriot/NAS or whatever his mantle happens to be at the moment as usual cleverly dodges legitimate questions, he has been quite clear for some time he is a VMI grad, as well as made it quite clear he has great disdain for The Citadel and never misses an opportunity to sling arrows.
     
  15. Humey

    Humey Member

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    USC - University of Southern California. Whats with this South Carolina thing?
     
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  16. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator 5-Year Member

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    OK. Things are getting to be personal and the thread is quite old so I'm locking it.
     
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