The Citadel announced on Tuesday that it had denied a prospective student permission to wear a hijab with her uniform, ending a nearly monthlong period of considering what would have been the first change to the 174-year-old institution’s uniforms.
The Citadel’s president, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, said that while the college in Charleston, S.C., often arranged for transportation to religious services and made accommodations for prayer and diets based on religion, it would stop short of changing the uniform. He added that officials hoped the student would still attend.
“As the Military College of South Carolina, the Citadel has relied upon a highly effective educational model requiring all cadets to adopt a common uniform,” General Rosa said. “Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model.”
But a spokesman for the family, Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Tuesday that the student would not attend the college because she had been denied her religious rights.
Mr. Hooper, who said he had spoken with the student’s father, described her as heartbroken and in tears when she learned of the Citadel’s decision, which he said stood in opposition to past decisions by the military to accommodate religious dress.
He also said all legal options were being considered and expressed confidence that the decision would be challenged in court. “We just can’t leave an unconstitutional, and frankly un-American, policy to stand,” he said.
The family has declined to reveal the identity of the student and her home state, Mr. Hooper said.
The commitment to uniformity has long been a foundation of institutions that are conduits to the United States military. That commitment is being tested as Americans engage in widespread cultural and religious debates questioning the status quo in Hollywood, politics and everyday life. The men and women with roles in the armed forces are also getting caught up in the debate.
At West Point, a group of 16 black female students who raised their fists while posing for a photo in traditional dress gray uniform are under investigation by the school. Some have criticized the women, saying that they had invoked a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement and sowed divisions in a military that relies on assimilation. But others who have been in touch with the students say the gesture was not political.
“These ladies weren’t raising their fist to say ‘Black Panthers.’ ” Mary Tobin, a West Point graduate, told The New York Times. “They were raising it to say ‘Beyoncé.’ ”
But a United States Army captain who was allowed to wear a religious beard and turban while in uniform rejects the idea that uniformity upholds the military’s standards for discipline and safety.
“In the Army, people care how good you are at your job,” Capt. Simratpal Singh, a Sikh and a decorated officer, told The New York Times. “Are you a leader? Do you work hard? Then having a turban and a beard doesn’t change anything.”
The Army announced in April that it had given Captain Singh permission to wear the beard and turban despite what the military had said was a need for uniformity and strict safety standards. He had also filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department, accusing it of religious discrimination after he was subjected to special helmet and gas mask testing.
News of the student’s request at the Citadel was reported by The Washington Post after Nick Pinelli, a cadet, wrote a lengthy post on Facebook, saying that the college would be promoting inequality if it allowed the student to wear a hijab.
“Equality means the same set of rules for everyone,” Mr. Pinelli wrote, “not different rules for different people. It means accepting everyone, and giving them the same tools to succeed as the rest.”