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Citadel's First Woman Decides to Leave School : Education: Shannon Faulkner sees no 'dishonor' in dropping out of all-male academy after one week. Stress, health problems are blamed for her decision.

August 19, 1995|ERIC HARRISON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — A week after winning her two-year fight to gain entrance to The Citadel, Shannon Faulkner on Friday said she was dropping out of the all-male military college, the victim of stress.

"I do not think there's any dishonor in leaving," Faulkner told reporters outside The Citadel, the 152-year-old state-funded academy in Charleston, S.C. "I think there's [no] justice in my staying and killing myself just for the political point."

Faulkner, 20, had been taken to the infirmary Monday, the first day of training during what is known as "hell week," when she and a number of other corps members became ill because of 102-degree heat.

She was to have been released Friday morning to rejoin her unit after a doctor deemed her fit to return. Instead, she stayed in the infirmary and later in the day, with her father and her lawyer by her side, announced that she was leaving.

Cheers echoed through the campus when Faulkner's decision became known, and cadets rejoiced in the rain that they were once again an all-male school. Citadel officials, who had fought to the end to keep Faulkner out, said they were pleased that she was gone. "We hope things return to normal as soon as possible," a spokesman said.

But women's rights advocates Friday hailed Faulkner as a pioneer and predicted that other women would soon follow her lead.

"I don't see her as a quitter," said Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, who was not involved with the case. "I see her as a winner.

"I think she has undergone, in her attempts to enter The Citadel, a personal endurance test that possibly very few men could endure and survive," Allred said. "The heat that she took on Monday is nothing compared to the heat that she took . . . in her battle to enter this school."

It was only last week, the day before new cadets were to arrive at the school, that two U.S. Supreme Court justices refused a request by The Citadel that they intervene, thus clearing the way for Faulkner's admittance to the school.

During her fight to get into the school, Faulkner said that she had endured death threats and that her home was vandalized. Bumper stickers and T-shirts appeared in Charleston with slogans "Save The Males" and "Shave Shannon," a reference to the legal fight over whether she would have to shave her head like male cadets.

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In fighting to keep her out, school officials had said she would not be able to endure the physical rigors of training and had noted that she is 20 pounds over Army weight standards for her height. But Faulkner said Friday that her physical condition or stamina was not the issue.

"All the problems that they thought that I may have had if I did join the corps, those are not the reason I'm leaving," she told reporters as she stood in the rain, sometimes choking back tears, just before leaving the campus.

She said she was felled by the stress she endured during her long fight to enter the school. "I wanted to make it through this, but circumstances before hand have just made it very difficult for me to," she said.

She said she had been physically keeping up with the other cadets, but "the past 2 1/2 years came crashing down on me in an instant. . . .

"But I really hope that next year a whole group of women will be going in. Because maybe it would have been different if the other women would have been with me."

She said it was hard to leave because she had worked so long and hard to get in. Asked by reporters if she felt she was letting down her attorneys and others who have stood by her during her long ordeal, Faulkner said: "It's not going to do my attorneys any good if I get in there and have a mental breakdown or anything like that."

She added: "I know that by me leaving today so many people are either mad at me or disappointed in me, and some are elated that I am leaving. All I have to say is I have to think about my own health right now."

Faulkner said she did not know what she would do now. "I have no earthly idea," she said. "I know my life is going to be miserable right now for a while, but . . . I'll just have to deal with it the best I can."

Rumors that she would drop out circulated Friday before the announcement. A Spartanburg, S.C., television station reported at midday that her father was traveling to Charleston to pick her up. He earlier had been quoted as saying Faulkner was treated for dehydration and had been vomiting.

Faulkner's lawyer, Suzanne Coe, attributed her client's decision to leave to the extreme isolation of being the only woman among hundreds of men.

"She feels alone here. She doesn't want to be here," Coe said. The lawyer said she was disappointed and concerned about the possible effects of the decision on Faulkner's lawsuit, but added: "I'm not the one who has to sleep alone in the barracks."

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