South Carolina legislative auditors criticized the governing board for The Citadel military college on Wednesday, saying the board is not diverse, improperly met in secret and has undue influence in cadets’ punishment proceedings.
The new Legislative Audit Council report also states the school’s Board of Visitors frequently changes how discipline rules are handled, possibly giving the impression that the rules depend on who is being disciplined and may be due to legislators’ influence.
Auditors noted Citadel’s 377 pages of written rules for cadets are three times as long as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A 2012 study committee recommended shortening the rulebook, but it has only grown since then. Any serious violation is either considered by a hearing officer or commandant’s board. However, appeals can then be made to the Board of Visitors if a cadet faces explulsion. But they became more involved after a 2011 letter from two state legislators urged them to do so. An opponent of the change called the letter “micromanaging” and implied a “threat of reprisal” if the board did not act.
“The (Board) has amended the College Regulations numerous times to alter its involvement in the cadet discipline process, sometimes seemingly as a reaction to particular situations,” the audit stated.
A faculty and staff survey found 33 percent of respondents believed discipline was applied “inconsistently” while 21% percent agreed with the statement that the process is “susceptible to favoritism.” However, the school answered that the fact only one out of five faculty thought the process “susceptible” does not necessarily make it so.
Auditors noted The Citadel is the only military academy in the country which has its governing board get involved at all in cadet discipline decisions. They recommended getting out of the practice.
The audit also accused the board of meeting on at least one occasion at a private yacht club closed to the public. The school says it was only a social dinner where pending agenda items were not discussed, but LAC Director Earle Powell said it occurred the night before a scheduled board meeting. He said the law still requires an open meeting if a quorum is in attendance.
“Who knows if they discussed business when you can’t get in and hear it?” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “I just think that kind of has ‘danger’ written all over it.”