CHARLESTON, South Carolina: Last month an embarrassed interim Citadel President R. Clifton Poole vowed to turn over to state authorities anyone found to be guilty of hazing former cadets Kim Messer and Jeanie Mentavlos. Friday he reversed course and said that charges by the two women that they were assaulted and sexually harassed will not hold up. "I think when we begin having these board hearings, the male cadets are going to deny a lot of these things. I think the male cadets are also going to have witnesses who are going to justify their denials." The Citadel head said that the two women had constant discipline problems, suggesting that they were on the verge of getting the boot from the military school when they left in January. TIME's Lisa Towle says that the persistent talk among Citadel cadets was that the Messer and Mentavlos were not up to the grade, either academically or physically. "The general feeling was that these two women were slackards," says Towle. She notes that cadets reported that the two would often stay up past lights-out, then check into the infirmary to take a nap under the pretense of feeling ill. Some cadets note the Citadel's two other female cadets, Nancy Mace and Petra Lovetinska, whom peers ranked as "some of the best cadets this school has ever seen, have reported no incidents while at the school. Still, whether they were slackers or not doesn't mean you should have to endure having fingernail polish smeared on and ignited, as Messer and Mentavlos claim they were forced to. A lawyer for Mentavlos dismissed Poole's remarks as "absurd, ridiculous, a comment of desperation and without basis in any respect."