February 7, 2004
Dear Alumni and Friends,
A resolution from the Citadel Alumni Association Board of Directors has asked the Board of Visitors to rescind its decision allowing a flexible evening meal schedule for upper class cadets. Some have erroneously interpreted this schedule change as diluting our military system or breaking tradition. I'll address both concerns, starting with The Citadel's concept of tradition.
What constitutes a Citadel tradition depends largely on when one graduated. I am absolutely certain that my grandfather, my father and my son had a cadet experience different from my own. Yet changes in uniforms, schedules, military demands or the composition of the Corps have not weakened that bond forged by the ring and those traditions essential to a Citadel education. The essential traditions have remained consistent since The Citadel was founded in 1842: honor, leadership, academic excellence, duty and spiritual growth.
The cadet experiences of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are defined by circumstances unique to those eras. More recently, there have been a number of changes to what some might consider traditions that have toughened our military requirements since 1996. Consider these examples:
The most recent change, the flexible evening meal, allows upper class cadets to eat in the mess hall between 1700 and 1930. Nothing changes for the fourth class cadets. They still have evening formation and Retreat at 1800 while cadets elsewhere on campus stop during Retreat to render honors. The fourth class has a family style meal under the supervision of company and battalion duty officers. All cadets still have traditional formations and family-style meals at breakfast and lunch. This change does not give cadets additional free time; instead, it allows them to pack more into the time they have. They do not have the option of relaxing or leaving campus for non-Citadel activities after they have finished classes and met other obligations.
We have accountability reports at 2000 and 2300 to make certain cadets meet their expected schedules. Except for Wednesday nights when seniors and academically eligible cadets get Charleston passes, cadets must eat in the mess hall. They cannot dine in Charleston or order fast food delivery.
When the flexible evening meal was tested two years ago, we found fewer complaints about food, fewer nutritional issues with fourth class cadets, improved grades, fewer Corps/Corps Squad issues and expanded internship opportunities.
The flexible evening meal makes better use of cadets' time for academic work, uninterrupted study, ROTC opportunities, internships and practice teaching - all activities that give them a competitive edge when they graduate. Upper class cadets can now participate in intramurals, club sports, religious groups, community service and similar activities and still get a decent meal in the mess hall. And since Corps Squad athletes can now eat with the Corps, the interaction between the two groups has become more positive.
The flexible evening meal will save an estimated $100,000 per year while improving the quality of meals in the mess hall - a significant fact considering The Citadel has lost more than $4 million in state funding and faces another round of cuts next year. Even without that savings, however, the Board of Visitors would be hard pressed to deny cadets the educational benefits the flexible evening meal affords.With the cost of a Citadel education now topping $50,000, we have an obligation to cadets and their families to give cadets the best possible preparation for their future careers.
The schedule change notwithstanding, The Citadel still remains more demanding than the academies and peer military colleges in terms of daily formations, accountability checks and our breakfast and lunch requirements.
The board approved the flexible evening meal after considerable discussion because of the documented educational benefits for our cadets. Board members understood that alumni might view this change as a departure from tradition. In the final analysis, we looked at the mission of The Citadel - excellence in the preparation of principled leaders - and concluded that rigid evening meal schedule was shutting off opportunities cadets should have as part of their Citadel education.
I hope you have a better understanding of the reasons behind the Board of Visitors' decision to support the flexible evening meal.