2 female cadets ordered to wear civilian clothing Citadel says moves are for their protection

December 17, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Tension at The Citadel escalated yesterday as administrators ordered two female cadets to take final exams out of uniform and restricted their on-campus movements amid complaints the pair were hazed.

The military college insisted that Kim Messer of Clover, S.C., and Jeanie Mentavlos of Charlotte, N.C., wear civilian clothing as a precaution against having them answer to upperclassmen during an investigation. Because the women are living off-campus this week, the college told them to limit visits to classrooms, the library and computer labs.

Paul Gibson, a Charleston attorney hired by the women's parents during the weekend, called those restrictions unwarranted and unreasonable.

"They didn't do anything wrong and they're being treated as if they did," Gibson said. "These women had earned the right to wear these uniforms. They should be able to wear the uniforms."

Citadel spokesman Terry Leedom said the administration's decision is intended to insulate the women, and protect the college, from any misunderstandings over routine military commands directed at freshmen.

L "We don't want anybody trying to correct them," Leedom said.

The college also yesterday suspended a second cadet for his alleged involvement in hazing complaints involving Mentavlos, Messer and a third male cadet. Unlike the first cadet who was kicked off campus Saturday as exams began, the second cadet facing disciplinary action is being allowed to take the tests.

Leedom said the cadet suspended yesterday is a junior in Echo Company, the unit to which Messer, Mentavlos and Petra Lovetinska, a Czech national, are assigned.

The fourth female cadet, Nancy Mace of Goose Creek, is assigned to the regimental band.

Five other student leaders in Echo Company have been temporarily removed from their positions and moved to other barracks.

Harvey Messer, Kim's father, acknowledged during the weekend his daughter and Mentavlos were targets of harassment for much of the semester, especially after being excused from military training because of health problems. Both women suffer from bone stress problems, an ailment commonly found in women involved in basic military training.

Messer said his daughter and Mentavlos have been abused verbally and physically.

State and federal authorities are looking into those incidents and one where a flammable liquid was dabbed on the women's clothes and set afire. No one was injured, school officials said.

Gibson said yesterday that the U.S. Justice Department dispatched lawyers to Charleston during the weekend to conduct its own probe. The department refused to comment on whether an investigation is under way.

State Law Enforcement Division agents left the campus Monday, Leedom said. He did not know if they will return. A SLED spokesman said the investigation was continuing. Once SLED's work is done, agents will consult with the local solicitor to determine if charges are warranted.

Mentavlos, whose parents were in Charleston, and Messer spent last night at an undisclosed locale off-campus. They will continue to do so until they finish their exams, Gibson said. The corps will be dismissed officially on Saturday.

The four female cadets entered The Citadel in August, two months after the college's governing board changed its all-male admissions policy.

Mace and Lovetinska remained on campus and continued to participate in activities.

Pub Date: 12/17/96

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