Course suggestion for the Citadel, Charleston, S.C.’s tradition-steeped military college: Faulkner 101. That’s Faulkner as in Shannon, the single-minded 19-year-old from Powdersville, S.C., who is waging an unrelenting campaign to become the first female cadet in the school’s history. Says Citadel alum Pat Conroy, whose novel The Lords of Discipline took a hard look at hazing practices at such institutions: “She has stood alone facing the 2,000-man corps and has not blinked.”
Faulkner’s eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation began in January 1993 when she was accepted, then quickly rejected when school officials realized the “Shannon” on her application was a she, not a he. Last January, after several legal skirmishes, Faulkner was finally admitted as a day student. Although she can now attend classes, she cannot live on campus or wear a cadet uniform. Still awaiting oral arguments on an appeal by the Citadel, Faulkner would not be able to enter the corps until next fall at the earliest.
In gender war, as in any other, there are casualties. First to take a hit was the notion that cadets always comported themselves with grace and distinction. Many hissed whenever Faulkner spoke in class; some proudly sported T-shirts reading, “1,952 Bulldogs [the school mascot] and 1 Bitch.” Faulkner now says that she “had no idea” what she was getting into: “I’ve been denied quite a few things—like a normal college life.”
Fortunately her life hasn’t been all Sturm und Drang. The sophomore education major is enjoying a long-distance romance with a young sailor she met during a visit with her brother in the Navy. And she already has a date lined up—author Conroy—for the big senior ring dance, should she be admitted as a full cadet by then. But that’s a foregone conclusion, insists the feisty Faulkner. “It’s becoming inevitable,” she says. “I’m going to win.”