How The Citadel Works

A Year in the Life of a Knob

See? Knob life isn't all bad.
See? Knob life isn't all bad.
Photo courtesy Russell K. Pace/The Citadel

­A knob's life is extremely structured and full of duties, exercises and inspections. The knowledge needed by a knob is specified in several manuals: The Guidon, as well as the Red, White and Blue books.

Among other duties, a knob is assigned to a mentor cadet and helps his or her mentor with daily stuff like taking out the trash. Knobs also typically collect and distribute laundry bags and keep the barracks clean. They must always wear a clean, neat uniform with shined shoes and polished brass (uniforms vary depending upon whether knobs are in class, at parade or taking part in physical training). They carry their belongings in a small bag in the left hand so that their right hand is available to salute. They're restricted as to which areas they can walk and which entrances or stairs of buildings they can use.

For knobs, most days begin around 6 a.m. They must get ready by 7 a.m. for formation and breakfast mess. (There's even a specified time slot designated "personal hygiene" on the Citadel's official 24-hour schedule!) Their squad leaders inspect them, sometimes assigning push-ups before marching them to morning mess. As we mentioned, knobs sit erect at mess, observe table manners, serve upperclass cadets, eat quickly and answer questions when asked. After breakfast, they report back to their barracks to get ready for 8 a.m. classes.

Citadel classes are much like those in other universities. The faculty consists of male and female professors. Approximately 99 percent of the faculty have a terminal degree (the highest degree a professional can earn in her or her field [source: The Citadel]. Citadel classes have a low faculty-to-student ratio (approximately 14:1) [source: The Citadel]. Class attendance is mandatory, with few exceptions.

At noon, knobs gather for lunch formation and a repeat of the morning routine. Afternoon classes last from 1 to 4. Physical training (PT) usually occurs on Monday and Thursday mornings and some Friday afternoons for all cadets. Like breakfast and lunch, knobs assemble for evening mess and march there at 6 p.m. After dinner, they head back to the barracks to take care of any duties they may have or to attend club meetings. Mandatory evening study period begins at 8. Cadets may study in their rooms or other campus buildings, but they must be back in their rooms by 10:30 p.m. for accountability check-in. Lights-out is at 11 p.m.

Cadets during parade Cadets during parade
Cadets during parade
Photo courtesy Russell K. Pace/The Citadel

­Amid that tight schedule, all cadets take part twice a week in drill periods and parade practice. Parade is where the cadet companies march in formation for review by the commanders. On Friday afternoons, the Corps of Cadets assembles for the weekly military dress parade. On weekends, knobs usually get a breather for study, rest and general leave.

Knobs begin receiving general leave a few weeks after they arrive. Parents often attend parade each Friday and can visit on the weekends. There's also a Parents' Weekend held each October. Knobs also have winter and spring breaks like other college students. During the second semester, they're allowed to go on overnight leave on weekends (although leave can be taken away for military and discipline infractions).

In April, just before exams, comes Recognition Day, which marks the end of their fourth-class year. It is then that knobs are recognized by their first and last names and they learn the full names of all the cadets in their company and throughout the Corps. By afternoon, the knob year ends, and the knobs are recognized in an emotional ceremony that involves the entire Corps of Cadets, faculty and staff.

On to life as an upperclass cadet, at last.