COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Citadel is making a change in an effort to draw more women.
The military college in Charleston, S.C., has changed its rules about grooming, the academy said in a news release.
Part of the adjusted grooming rules will mean "fourth-class female cadets" are no longer required to cut their hair "at matriculation," the Citadel reported. The changes to the college's Blue Book, its list of regulations, will be in place for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The Citadel said the new standards "will improve the recruiting of women."
This is a progressive step for the 176-year-old military college, which dropped the male gender requirement from admissions policy in 1996.
Initially, female cadets were required to have a "pixie-style haircut." Then came the 2008-2009 school year, when the college said women were permitted "to have long hair worn in a bun" if they were upperclassmen.
But according to the Citadel, female cadets who were attempting to grow their hair out had "an unruly mop that requires a lot of attention and a lot of bobby pins" by their sophomore year.
"Good for the women who were willing to come here and cut their hair, but the haircuts just look bad," Citadel Commandant Geno Paluso said.
The new standard allows women at the Citadel to follow the standards of the U.S. Army set by the Department of Defense, the school said.
"I don't think the Citadel should have a stricter grooming standard than the Department of Defense — the very people defending our nation, our freedom and our right to have this institution," said Paluso, a retired Navy captain and an alum of the Citadel.
The changes to the Blue Book are not limited to female cadets. The Charleston college reported "fourth-class male cadets will get one initial haircut at matriculation." That is a return to an old rule, which was changed in 1997 when men were required to have "a yearlong freshman-standard haircut."
The school said rules prohibiting sideburns were put in place in 1956, and the "buzz cut" didn't become a tradition for freshmen until the 1960s.
The rule change has the endorsement of the Citadel's president. "I support Capt. Paluso's decision wholeheartedly," Gen. Glenn Walters said. "To be competitive as a college, we need to be current, and hairstyles should not define who we are."
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the change. Many comments on a Facebook post regarding the regulations were critical. One comment said the Citadel will "lower the quality of cadets we receive and graduate" as a result of the change.
However, there were also several supportive comments. Several people pointed out that the rules for men were different and longer hair was permitted in the '70s and '80s, when they said they attended the Citadel.