CHARLESTON, S.C., AUG. 1 -- Shannon Faulkner, the first woman admitted to the all-male Citadel military college, will have to shave off her long, sandy blond hair, following a federal judge's ruling tonight.
U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck stunned Faulkner and her lawyers when he turned aside their argument that she would be a "freak" and agreed to the Citadel's request that she be treated like male students. They sit before a barber, who in 12 to 15 seconds shears their heads leaving only stubble behind.
The issue of Faulkner having to shave, or not to shave, is huge here. Bumper stickers shrieking "Shave Shannon!" are as popular in this southern seaport as Redskins stickers are in Washington. A morning radio talk show today conducted a poll on the question; those demanding her locks be cut won by a landslide.
Faulkner, 19, and her attorneys hurriedly left the federal courthouse, visibly disappointed tonight. Other details of her admission were also decided today. She will not sleep in the white stone barracks with other male students, but by herself in the infirmary. Unlike her male classmates who have to perform at least 40 push-ups in two minutes, she will be required to do only 18. But no issue carried the emotion that the hair rule did.
"Unless everyone adopts a Sinead O'Connor hairstyle, she will be stigmatized," pleaded Faulkner's attorney Val Vojdik, referring to the singer known for her shaved head. Vojdik said the school insisted on this extreme haircut to make Faulkner's campus life as difficult as possible. To show how seriously she took this issue, the attorney showed the court pictures of women whose heads were shaved as punishment for collaborating with Nazis.
The Justice Department has joined Faulkner in her lawsuit, and today Justice attorney Sandra Lynn Beber argued that women at West Point or any other federal military academy were not subject to the same barbershop rules as men. There are separate rules for women, she said.
But the main thrust of Houck's remarks during the four-hour hearing was that he did not want the court "to take over the running of the Citadel." Because Faulkner and the Citadel failed to reach agreement on more details of her admission, the judge said, he "looked at the law" for direction regarding his role in these matters. After ensuring Faulkner had "privacy" to bathe, undress and use the restroom, Houck said he believed he should largely leave to the Citadel the management of her arrival. She will be the lone woman among 2,000 men.
On July 22, Houck ruled that it was unconstitutional for Faulkner to be denied admission to the state-supported military college. Unless it is overturned on a last-minute appeal, the ruling makes her the first full-fledged female member of the corps of cadets in the school's 152 years.
For security reasons, Vojdik said Faulkner agreed to the Citadel's request that she sleep in special quarters to be carved out of the 80-bed infirmary.
Her attorneys demanded that she be allowed to lock her door from the inside at night, given the animosity against her on campus and a recent death threat. Vojdik said state and federal authorities were investigating a threat that apparently involved a sign being posted off campus that said, "Die Shannon."
While Houck said "a latch" seemed a simple thing for the Citadel to agree to, he also left that decision to the school's discretion. He did instruct the Citadel to stop acting like Shannon was "the enemy," and implored them to take her safety seriously. "She doesn't have a phone, a beeper. I am not sure she even has a friend," the judge said.
Citadel attorney Dawes Cooke said the judge's rulings today were "encouraging" and showed Houck did "not want to cause any more destruction of the Citadel system." But Cooke said the school's objective "remains to not have her admitted."
He had argued the shaved head was key to the entire freshmen cadet disciplinary system, "a symbolic relinquishment of individuality."
Throughout the long discussions about her upcoming college days, Faulkner never spoke. She sat, looking at the judge and Citadel attorneys with her hair in a French braid that fell to the middle of her back, tied by a black ribbon. On Aug. 15, she is to show up for orientation and get it cut.