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.

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