Despite rumors to the contrary, freshman "knobs" at the Citadel are still subject to the rigorous Fourth Class System, according to a school spokesperson. In other words, freshman cadets can still expect a tough first year.
"I know that there's a rumor going around that we've disbanded the Fourth Class System, and that is inaccurate," said Citadel Media Relations Coordinator Charlene Gunnells, when asked if the incoming Class of 2016 was being treated any differently than previous freshman classes. At the Citadel, a senior military college, freshmen are famously called "knobs" due to the male cadets' shaved heads, and in addition to completing a week of training known as Hell Week, they have restricted privileges and are required to obey any legal order given by an upper-class cadet.
The Guidon, a handbook for Citadel students, explains the Fourth Class System this way:
The purpose of the Fourth Class System at The Citadel is to provide a base upon which a fourth class cadet may develop those qualities essential to a good leader. It is dedicated to the principle that no one is fit to lead who has not learned to follow. The system requires mental preparedness, physical conditioning, and self discipline and is conducted with impartiality.
At times, upperclassmen have abused their authority, and the school has disciplined students for engaging in hazing over the years. Asked if there had been any unusual announcements made to cadets in regard to hazing, Gunnells said she did not know of any. "We don't tolerate hazing. That's not new," Gunnells said. "I'm not aware of any new announcements."