A Muslim student who wanted to wear a hijab at The Citadel will not be accommodated, the college’s president announced Tuesday, rebuffing demands the school grant its first-ever dress code exception.
The Citadel is a public school in Charleston, South Carolina and is famous for its strict discipline. The school requires cadets to have short haircuts and wear uniforms at almost all times — it has never granted an exception to these rules in its 174-year history.
Citadel administrators announced in April that they were considering granting their first exception for an unnamed female Muslim who planned to matriculate at the school next fall. The student wanted to wear her hijab on campus, which would flout the school’s current dress code. The student isn’t the first Muslim woman to attend the school (three currently do so), but the school said she was the first to make such a request.
The announcement that the dress code might be weakened sparked a backlash from some Citadel students and alumni who were protective of the school’s traditions.
College president and retired Air Force General John Rosa said Tuesday the dress code would remain absolute.
“Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model. The standardization of cadets in apparel, overall appearance, actions and privileges is essential to the learning goals and objectives of the college,” Rosa said in a statement.
Rosa added he hopes the student will still matriculate in the fall, but the Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told the Associated Press that the girl will not do so thanks to the decision.
“It’s another step in the struggle for patriotic Americans who want to serve their country,” CAIR said. “In 2016, it’s time for them to look at America today and understand that a diverse group of people want to go through the Citadel and follow a path to serve their country.”
The Citadel’s firmness comes at a time when the military is becoming increasingly lax with dress code requirements. Recently, for instance, the Army has allowed a Sikh to wear a turban and go unshaven, even though such practices clash with existing Army regulations.
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