The Citadel: Advice from the Bookstore

The cadre line the knobs up outside the chapel Sunday of Matriculation Weekend, 2010. NOTE: the black “knobbie bag” for books.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Andy Beckwith, the manager of the Citadel Gift Shop, and asked him what he would like cadets and their parents to know about buying books. So much has changed now that you can rent books and get some texts in eBook format. His advice follows:

There is a good bit of info out there regarding our textbook rental program on the auxiliary services web pages.

Book Rental Frequently Asked Questions

Book Rental Terms

Most of it is taken directly from the B&N pages, but there is an overview that’s a bit more specific to cadets here.

The biggest confusion seemed to be that even though the rental charges would be placed against the restricted CWID account, using their cadet ID card, a credit or debit card would still need to be available to swipe at the time of purchase. Both cards must be swiped to complete a cadet rental. As long as the books are returned on time, there is never any charge to that debit or credit card account related to the rental.

The rental program was first instituted here in Fall of 2011. It was quite successful and (surprisingly for a brand new program ) rather trouble-free. They will be asked by the cashier at the time of purchase if they wish to rent the rentable titles and we will take it from there. If they don’t have a credit or debit card, they can come back with one and convert to rental within the first two weeks of class.

The school administration and the Commandant’s department were adamant that incoming freshmen  be offered the same book options upperclassmen would receive even in the context of the rigorous orientation week. To this end we worked with the academic cadre to pass on this information to incoming freshman and assist them in the process; we will be doing so this time as well. We will also be posting relevant information on our Facebook page as the back to school process unfolds. \

Another excellent information resource is to opt in to our email list which can also be done through our Facebook page by signing up for this sweepstakes. This also provides access to store discounts and promotions. They can opt out any time and the list won’t be sold to third parties. Beyond that there are two very important facts about textbooks I try to make every cadet know:

  1. Mark your books with some kind of identification. Sadly, people do steal textbooks – especially around book buyback time. If you write your name in your book, it won’t affect the buyback value or rental return, but it might discourage theft and make it easier to recover your book if it’s stolen.
  2. Save your receipt. Save your receipt!! Save your receipt!!!! It’s a major purchase. Many cadets throw the receipt away immediately and then drop a class or want to return a book. We will do whatever we can to help, but the process is much easier on everyone (including the always time-pressed cadet) if you have the textbook receipt. The rental agreement also has important information and should be kept.

The Only Constant is Change – Heraclitus (but change happens slower at The Citadel – Dorie)

Heraclitus is credited with the phrase, “The only constant is Change.” As much as we would like our lives to stay predictable, change is how we grow.

After years of working for para church organizations and nonprofits I was convinced that  the phrase, “This is how we’ve always done it.” was an official doctrine. After listening to a number of Citadel alumni, old and new, I have learned change happens at The Citadel but very slowly and with MUCH debate.

In the 5 academic years since my sons Matriculation Day, I can say the changes from my perspective have been minimal. If you talk with the recent graduates though, they are already saying the new cadets don’t really have a knob year. I know the Class of 2015 who just finished Recognition Day would argue their knob year and Recognition Day was just as meaningful for them as it was for every class that went before them.

Wednesday of this week I received an unexpected email from a 1993 graduate of The Citadel. He had read my blog. Most of the email was about how the school had changed tremendously since he was a cadet in the early ’90’s. “It has changed much more from 1993 to 2012 than it changed in the 19 years from 1974 to 1993.” Of course I’ve heard plenty about the Old Corps over the years.

He added a sentence or two to me about my blog, “I understand you think you are helping with all of the hints and enhanced packing lists and such. But really, you’re taking away from the experience, Mrs. Griggs.”

He went on to say that when he was a Summerall Guard. “The only thing my parents knew was what I told them. No pictures, (other than old yearbooks) no timeline so they knew what was going on.”

I’ve thought about his email quite a bit the past few days. One of the first things that struck me was that in the time period he mentions we have ALL experienced tremendous change in our day-to-day existence. In the early ’90’s the majority of the country did not own cell phones. Computers and the ability to actually see the person you were talking to on a computer, still seemed like something only the futuristic cartoon family the Jetson’s could do.

The time period of 1990 to the present day is called the Information Age for a reason. The World Wide Web was invented in 1989 and was implemented globally in 1991. No wonder the 1993 graduate noticed such a huge change in his beloved alma mater.

To keep up with other academic institutions The Citadel had to change their policies. In 2007 when the Class of 2011 matriculated they could not carry cell phones first semester. Second semester only those knobs who had a good GPA were given the privilege of carrying them. By 2008, as a result of the April 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy, colleges and universities around the country changed their protocol for emergency notifications. Those changes included the requirement that all students must carry cell phones and be connected to an emergency alert system.

To remain competitive and relative in the educational market place The Citadel had to make necessary changes to the way education happened on the campus. Every cadet is expected to have their own computer, and a printer if they’d like. Books can be rented now through the bookstore. WiFi is available on the campus.

Do a quick search through Google images, The Citadel Family Association photo page or even The Citadel photo library, and you will find photos of just about any type of campus event. Tools like Wikipedia and YouTube are resources for even more information on the school and various organizations and events, including the Summerall Guards. The cadre now use Facebook and Google searches to learn about the incoming classes. The new students are tech savvy enough to hide most of their online profile before their knob year. Citadel parents are resourceful as well. I can tell by the hits on my blog what time of year is coming up on campus. Right now it looks like a lot of Citadel moms with rising seniors are trying to decide what dress to wear for the Ring Ceremony during Parents Weekend.

If a student arrives at The Citadel for Matriculation Day with their family not knowing it is a military school, as is rumored to happen every matriculation day, they just haven’t done their homework.

Just about everything that happens at The Citadel is documented on the school’s website. My son’s knob year the Facebook groups for parents didn’t exist yet. The Citadel Family Association volunteers provided support if you asked. Between emailing parents with basic questions on attire for various events to meals and hotels, I was able to get help from another parent. If I wanted to learn about a term my son used in an email, I could use the search window on the schools web site to get the answer. The school posts ALL the training PowerPoints to the web site. I discovered that one day while reading through the links on the Office of the Commandant page.

The information age has changed The Citadel, as it has changed every school. It has not changed the importance of annual events and rituals like those that take place during award parades, Parents Weekend, Corps Day Weekend and others.

Parents and incoming knobs can learn quite a bit about The Citadel by reading web sites and watching YouTube videos, but until the new knob has lived through the rigors of the 4th Class System, they do not become a full member of the Corps of Cadets.

I will never fully understand or know what it is like to be a cadet. My son told me very little. I do, however,have great respect for the graduates of The Citadel, not just because they wear the ring, but because I have experienced the graduates to be people of integrity.

Some events on campus have changed very little over the years. If I didn’t tell you the year, you couldn’t tell by this photo. Ring Ceremony, 2010
This photo taken at graduation shows the time-honored tradition of tossing your cover in the air once the president dismisses the class. This photo could be taken in any year, but it is from May 2011.

An Army Mom Supports a New Gold Star Family

As the mom of a new second lieutenant I’ve joined a few groups to help me learn about Army life and how I can support my son when he deploys. I’ve also learned there is one organization no military mother wants to join, the Gold Star Mothers. To be a member of this group your son or daughter has died while serving as an active duty military member.

The procession to the funeral home, Wednesday, May 2, was led by law enforcement officers. Military moms and members of the press stand by on the side-walk to show their respect.

This past week I went to our local funeral home to show my support for a new Gold Star family. First Lieutenant Jonathan Walsh died in Afghanistan when his vehicle hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). 1LT Walsh is from our home town. I did not know him, or his family before he died, but that does not matter. I stood along Mansell Road outside the funeral where his funeral service would be held and waited for the procession of law enforcement officers and Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) who escorted his body from Dobbins AFB. I was not alone. Several Blue Star mothers, mothers of active duty military sons and daughters also found their way to Roswell Funeral Home. We came to show our respect for Lt Walsh and our support for his family. Members of the media were there as well. I was impressed with the respect they showed to the people gathered there to honor the soldier. Their stories that aired later that day honored the soldier and his service.

After the service on Wednesday, members of the Patriot Guard Riders told me the ride to the funeral home took longer than usual since the procession went through the communities Lt Walsh had been part of, including Kennesaw State University.  The evening news showed shots of scores of people lining the streets along the route the procession traveled. One fellow Citadel mom told me she was eating lunch at a BBQ place and everyone left the restaurant to pay their respects as the procession went by.

The Patriot Guard Riders followed the law enforcement officers in the procession escorting the hearse carrying the remains of fallen 1LT Walsh.

I joined the Patriot Guard Riders of Georgia last year after attending the funeral of a young soldier. You don’t have to ride a motorcycle to be a member. The members of the PGR impressed me with the respect they showed at the funeral and at the grave side service. Several members invited me to join then at lunch that day when we entered the same restaurant together.

This past Thursday I stood holding the flag of the U.S. Army as a member of the PGR at the funeral for 1LT Walsh. I began to learn about the various duties and traditions of the Patriot Guard Riders. Georgia Ride Captain, Nancy “Red K” Hitching presented me with my first Mission Accomplished pin. She had quite a few 100 and 200 Mission pins on her leather vest. Tom “Knobby” Walsh stood next to me on the flag line and told me how to hold the flag. All the members welcomed me into the group that day. The respect and honor given to the fallen soldier and his family was truly touching.

We stood by the door of the funeral home holding our flags in our left hand. As visitors arrived we stood at attention. A two star general and his staff who were there to honor the fallen soldier, took the time to walk down the flag line and shake the hand of each person there and say, “Thank you for your service.”

I am still learning about being an Army mom. The first lesson is to support your fellow military families. The second rule is to always carry tissues.

My prayers are with the family of 1LT Jonathan Walsh.

The Patriot Guard Riders stand by the hearse carrying the casket of 1LT Walsh. If protesters show up at funerals the PGR will raise the flags and rev their engines so the family of the fallen will not see or hear the protestors.
The PGR flag line opens up to allow the Honor Guard to march through.
Patriot Guard Rider, Georgia Ride Captain, Nancy “Red K” Hitching.
Dorie receives her Mission Accomplished pin from PGR Georgia Ride Captain, Nancy “Red K” Hitching.