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Unkindest cut for the woman who stormed South's male bastion

WASHINGTON - Shannon Faulkner may have won her legal battle to become the first woman cadet admitted to the hitherto all-male Citadel military academy in South Carolina, writes Rupert Cornwell. But the price is the loss of her long blond hair.

Overruling pleas from her lawyers that the shearing would make her look like a 'freak', a Charleston judge has ruled that the Citadel is entitled to shave her head as it does for male first- year cadets. The law, he said, in the latest episode of an affair which has transfixed this old Southern city for months, recognised no difference between men and women in the way they wore their hair.

That was not the view of Ms Faulkner's lawyers, who claimed the academy was insisting on the head-shaving as a 'punitive and degrading' measure to make her life there as miserable as possible. But Citadel lawyer Dawes Cooke insisted the shearing was 'a symbolic relinquishing of individuality'. To treat her differently, he argued, would hurt her chances of assimilation into the academy.

Those chances, however, already look slim enough. The Citadel, one of the oldest and toughest military schools in the US, has fought Ms Faulkner's admission tooth and nail. Charleston is full of 'Shave Shannon' bumper stickers, and 'Die Shannon' graffiti have appeared on campus walls. Ms Faulkner, 19, will not be allowed to wear jewellery or make-up. She will live apart from the male cadets, in a room which she will probably be allowed to lock from the inside at night.

In his ruling, the judge asked the academy to stop treating Ms Faulkner 'like an enemy' and to take seriously threats to her safety: 'She doesn't have a phone or a beeper. I'm not even sure she has a friend.' As if to confirm that conjecture, the Citadel said yesterday it would appeal the original order that Ms Faulkner be admitted.

(Photograph omitted)