Citadel cadet punished after leaking hijab story

A cadet at The Citadel said the school is punishing him after he spoke out about a possible exception to the dress code for an incoming freshman cadet who has requested to wear a hijab.

A cadet at The Citadel said he is being punished with 33 hours of marching after he revealed in a Facebook post that the school was considering allowing an incoming cadet to wear a hijab in uniform.

The cadet, senior political science student Nick Pinelli, said officials at the public military college originally sought to charge him with behavior “unbecoming to a cadet,” a Class I offense that can lead to dismissal under the school’s disciplinary code. Instead, he said the school reduced the charge to “gross poor judgment” and handed him the maximum punishment: 40 “tours,” each consisting of 50 minutes of silent marching with a rifle in a barracks quadrangle. Pinelli, who has also been working as an intern for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, must complete the tours before graduating on May 7.

Pinelli’s April 13 Facebook post led to national media coverage and sparked heated debate among Citadel cadets and alumni about the issue of the hijab, a head covering worn by some Muslim women. The Citadel is considering accepting a Muslim freshman who has asked to be able to wear the head scarf — an exception to the school’s military dress code. No final decision has been made on the issue.

“If I valued liberal ideology, I would go to UC Berkeley,” Pinelli wrote in the post.

Col. Brett Ashworth, a spokesman for The Citadel, declined to comment on whether Pinelli is being punished. “Due to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), I can’t discuss individual disciplinary action,” Ashworth wrote in an email.

The college has not announced whether it will allow the incoming cadet to wear a hijab.

Reach Paul Bowers at (843) 937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.