“The Fourth-Class System is no longer in effect.”

The Citadel Photo

On Friday, March 13, those words echoed off the walls of all five battalions on The Citadel campus.

One hour before sunrise, The Citadel Class of 2023 was officially recognized as members of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets.

Recognition Day is one of the most important events in the life of a cadet; it’s when freshmen cadet recruits officially become cadets following months of training, after matriculating in August. Recognition Day 2020 was held two weeks early due to the dynamic situation involving COVID-19.

Recognition Day means the end for rigid formations, walking in single file at breakneck speed and the highly-regimented way of life that is The Citadel’s Fourth-Class System. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in The Citadel’s leadership development process. After hours of grueling physical work followed by a spirit run, cadets are called onto the checkered floor of their barracks where, after more push-ups, they listen in silent exhaustion for a message from their Regimental Commander.

The decision to move Recognition Day was made to ensure that the Class of 2023 is properly recognized, in the event of a possible campus closure later in the semester.

“I think actually seeing it come to life — it added a different flavor that none of us got to experience,” said Richard Snyder, the Regimental Commander of the Corps of Cadets. “And the privacy of doing it with just the cadets, because there are very few things on this campus that are really just the cadets, so it made for a much more family atmosphere — just getting to do it with your peers and do it with the people who trained you the entire year. It wasn’t a big production; it was making the most of the time you got with everyone.”

While there are currently no plans for The Citadel’s campus to close after Spring Break, the possibility alone made it imperative to ensure the Class of 2023 had their Recognition Day experience.

“The world’s really in a crisis situation right now,” continued Snyder. “This event is more important than our graduation, I think, because this would affect the next four years of the institution.”

Apart from the Gauntlet, all other planned March activities have been canceled due to COVID-19.

“I think as leaders you have to take the things you don’t necessarily like and make the most of it,” said Snyder. “And I think we did that as a class and did that as an institution.”

“I think it’s a good life lesson — that you never know when things are going to get cut short or you never know when you’re not going to get the time you wanted,” Snyder added. “And so it’s totally applicable to life to make the most of the time you get because you don’t know when you’ll run out.”

Regimental Commander Richard Snyder’s address to the Class of 2023

Members of the Class of 2023,

I want all of you to take a moment. Take a moment and feel the chills from the bagpipes…Feel the knot unwind from your stomach…and remember what it felt like to be enveloped by the dark and know that you have now overcome it.

I hope this moment sticks with you forever — because this is where you honor the commitment you made to yourself some time ago. You finished what you started.

I know yesterday many of you were upset you felt like things were cut short, but I’ll tell you that your recognition is not earned in your final week as a knob. It is earned every single day.

Being under the rigors of the 4th class system is a privilege — your days in it are limited — and it is up to you to embrace its discipline with the time you have. If you did it right — you have no reason to feel cheated.

I’ve referred to this institution as a mountain and to knob year as the start of your climb. But the truth is, life is a mountain and you never reach the peak or stop climbing.

By coming to this institution, you have aligned yourself with a different breed and begun to show your potential, but it is once again now up to you. From here on out you will no longer have the privilege of a 4th class system to hold you to a standard.

You must take the humility from standing on line everyday and walking in the gutter that has freed you from arrogance, you must take the minute-by-minute discipline that has freed you from laziness, and must take the honor that has freed you from dishonesty.

It is now up to you to take what you have learned and see just how high you can climb.

Never shy away from your pain because it has a purpose, seek the struggle so one day you will be strong, and wake up every day believing your goal is nine months away. One day you might just wake up and realize that it wasn’t so far away. Today is that day.

While this is only the beginning of your climb — never fail to stop and take a moment to appreciate the view — to appreciate those around you and relish in how far you have come.

Now — there is only one thing left — never stop climbing.

Members of the Class of 2023…the 4th class system…is no longer in effect.

For information and updated actions being taken by The Citadel related to COVID-19, click here.