The Four Pillars: Character
According to national statistics published by the U.S. Department of Justice, 20 percent to 25 percent of college women have been victims of sexual assault. Half of both men and women in college have reported being sexually harassed. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, half of all college students regularly binge drink, and this number rises to more than 80 percent for students who are members of fraternities or sororities. And 25 percent of girls and 17 percent of boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before they are 18.
But The Citadel refuses to accept the statistics.
The college has implemented a bold Values and Respect initiative to swim against the tide. While many other colleges across the nation merely try to react to these issues on their campuses, The Citadel is working proactively to address the problems.
“Values” and “respect” are two broad terms used in today’s professional world. So what exactly is the Values and Respect initiative?
Simply put, the Values and Respect Program addresses the character development facet of the Four Pillars. Before the program was implemented, the character development aspect of a cadet’s education did not have a structured curriculum like the other three pillars. The Values and Respect Program also links directly with the objectives of the Krause Initiative in Ethics and Leadership, a program funded by Bill Krause, ’63, designed to promote leadership development.
“Of our four pillars, character is the overarching one,” said Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, USAF (retired), The Citadel’s president, in his inaugural address in April 2006. “For if you perform at your best academically, physically and militarily, but you lack character, you have achieved nothing.”
The main arm of the initiative focuses on education and training in the areas of honor, sexual assault and harassment prevention, alcohol and substance abuse prevention, human dignity, and leadership development. Cadets receive training in all of these areas through classes and lectures, guest speakers, health and wellness fairs, and interactive demonstrations.
“Our society fosters an attitude that it’s acceptable to do what you can to get by with. Cheating to get ahead and excessive drinking have become an adolescent rite of passage. And it is from that pool that society’s leaders are drawn,” said Rosa. “But being an effective leader means leading by example, so at The Citadel we have to set a higher standard.”
One cadet sees firsthand what it is like to drive impaired. He sits in the car seat, grabs the wheel, and begins driving under normal, sober conditions. He maneuvers the car easily around turns and avoids obstacles on a realistic, computer-generated road. Then the simulator blurs what he sees and adjusts the steering to imitate a slowed reaction time. The cadet cannot handle the curves as easily as he could before, and he plows into some of the minor obstacles. Suddenly, he careens off the road and crashes into a large tree at 60 mph. Had this situation been real, he would have died upon impact.
The cadet’s peers gasp when he crashes. After he gets out of the car, his group of friends talks excitedly about the crash, and then another cadet volunteers to get behind the wheel.
Through a program called Sex Signals, cadets express their thoughts about sexual harassment and rape. A blend of improvisational comedy, education, and audience participation, Sex Signals provides a vivid look at how gender role stereotypes and mixed messages affect dating and sex on college campuses and can lead to date rape or sexual assault. The interactive seminar promotes awareness of these gender issues by sparking enthusiastic discussions that allow cadets to express their own thoughts on the subjects and to learn from their peers.
Sex Signals involves the audience in discussion, and even lets the audience guide its direction. At one point in the show, one of the comedians sets up a meeting scene between a man and a woman at a college party. He asks the cadets to suggest pick-up lines to start the scene.
Cadets look at each other and snicker. The relaxed atmosphere catches them off guard. A few bold cadets raise their hands.
“I seem to have lost my phone number—can I have yours?”
“Are you from Tennessee? Because you’re the only 10 I see!”
After each suggestion, the audience roars in laughter. The actors decide to go with “Do you believe in love at first sight, or do I need to walk by again?”
The hilarious scenario progresses unscripted and ends in a courtroom scene with the comic who plays the aggressive male saying, “No, your honor, I did not rape that woman.”
The auditorium is silent while the actors explain the possible consequences of these encounters. The show ends with about 15 minutes of open-ended discussion. Cadet participation is so spirited that they have to be reminded that they are in an academic building. The cadets not only learn about how many relationships can be misleading, but also feel a sense of ownership in the issues because their opinions are respected and integrated into the presentation.
Since the Values and Respect Program was implemented, there has been a noticeable change in culture at the college. Cadets have become more aware of their own behavior and how passing, seemingly harmless remarks can be taken as offensive by others of different backgrounds. Cadets appreciate the various cultures that are represented within the college as well as those that they will encounter throughout their professional lives. Cadets have also become aware that sexual harassment and assault are two separate things, and that the lines between them and what seems like acceptable behavior can sometimes become clouded. As a result, there is a greater understanding of sensitive gender issues on campus.
The Honor System is another dimension of the Values and Respect initiative, and the Honor Court has expanded its number of honor representatives by two for the 2007-2008 academic year. In a time fraught with cheating scandals in military academies, the Enron and Tyco fraud cases, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center neglect accusations, and the proliferation of soft-money politics, The Citadel holds itself to a higher standard.
“Values and respect are at the heart of The Citadel experience,” said Cadet Chase Mohler, regimental commander of the Corps of Cadets.
Mohler believes that this initiative is vital to fulfilling the college’s mission of educating principled leaders. Because of the danger posed by alcohol and drug abuse and its prevalence among college students, Mohler believes that it is the most important feature in the program. Following alcohol and drug abuse, Mohler emphasizes the importance of the program’s leadership development and its overall vision of promoting human dignity.
As globalization brings countries and continents closer, the need for leaders who respect others from diverse backgrounds as well as themselves is vital. Businesses and the military are investing significant resources in human dignity and sexual harassment training. And The Citadel is giving cadets a competitive edge by incorporating this training into their college education. With its proud history and ability to reflect the times, The Citadel remains a relevant authority in the education of principled leaders in a rapidly changing world.
Story by Cadet Andrew Harris, '08. Reprinted from "The Citadel" magazine with permission.