Jeanie Mentavlos, one of the two female cadets who left the Citadel in January after a semester, has detailed the series of mental and physical abuse which she endured. Speaking during an interview at her home, Mentavlos related that early in her days at the South Carolina military college, a male upperclassmen ordered her into a small dorm room, turned off the light and shoved stiff cardboard into her chin. “He grabbed it out of my hand and punched me in my chin with it,” Mentavlos said. The male cadet threatened that next time he would actually show her what “mean” meant The incident left Mentavlos with three large welts on her chin.
In October, two upperclassmen entered Mentavlos’ room late at night and set the sweatshirt she was wearing on fire. She put it out but had to break from the position required in the presence of upperclassmen to do so. The junior cadet ordered the sophomore cadet to light her again, this time the fire burned through the sweatshirt before the junior cadet put it out. In November, while Mentavlos and Kim Messer (the other female who quit the Citadel because of the hazing) were returning to their dorms, an upperclassman ordered the women to the room of the company commander. With the company commander present, the two women were forced to stand on tiptoe, facing into a doorless closet for two and a half hours while the men kicked, cursed and forced them to stretch higher, “They kept screaming ‘Get up, get up’, I couldn’t even breathe I was crying so hard. They were screaming at me ‘Quit breathing.’ I was still crying when I ran out of there.” A couple of weeks later, a sophomore cadet splashed nail polish remover at Mentavlos and lit her on fire, “The flames were going past the front of my ears. I just freaked out.”
These incidents represent only the most serious harassment Mentavlos endured, but the harassment was constant and began to affect her ability to study and sleep. Almost nightly a cadet would enter her room late at night and force her to stand at attention. Mentavlos’ brother was a Citadel senior cadet at the time but has since left the school before graduation, and several of her relatives graduated from the Academy. Mentavlos said she was aware of the hazing that occurs and commented, “I didn’t necessarily expect it to be comfortable when I went in there.” However, she believes the treatment she received was cruel, sadistic and excessive. State and federal criminal investigations continue, and twelve cadets currently face college disciplinary charges. The father of one of the two women who remain replaced the Citadel’s second-highest ranking official last week.