NORTHFIELD, Vt. — A Muslim high school student from Florida who hopes to become a Navy officer is going to attend Norwich University after the Vermont military school said it would allow her to wear her headscarf beneath her uniform.
Sana Hamze had initially hoped to attend The Citadel in South Carolina, but the school would not change its uniform policy to accommodate her headscarf.
"I didn't think it was fair to choose between practicing my faith and attending the Citadel," she told CNN. She noted that the U.S. military makes accommodations for Sikhs wearing turbans and Muslim women wearing hijabs.
The 17-year-old said she chose Norwich, which touts itself as the nation's oldest private military college and the birthplace of ROTC, after the school agreed to her request.
Norwich, located in the town of Northfield, has a total on-campus student body of about 2,250. About two-thirds of students are in the Corps of Cadets, its military program, while the rest are civilians who don't participate in military training. The students sit side-by-side in classrooms, though they have separate residences.
Norwich officials said privacy rules prevented them from confirming that Sana had agreed to attend. But last week, Norwich President Richard Schneider sent a message to the college community saying the school had agreed to accommodate a request from an accepted female student to wear a hijab beneath her uniform.
The student was told the "religious headgear" must be in "authorized colors and fabrics that can be covered" by the uniform.
"As educators of future leaders, it is our duty to matriculate a diverse student body that reflects our society," Schneider wrote. "Norwich prepares traditional students and the young men and women of our Corps of Cadets to welcome and respect diversity and to be inclusive of all people."
Norwich spokeswoman Daphne Larkin said Wednesday the reaction from Norwich alumni and others was "mixed, but generally positive."
Norwich was founded in 1819 by a former West Point instructor. It's considered the birthplace of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, which prepares students to become officers in the armed forces. In April, top military leaders visited the school to help celebrate the centennial of college ROTC.