The academy's honor

October 11, 1990

New studies of sexual harassment at the Naval Academy confirm what news reports have suggested for months: The academy suffers from a pervasive attitude that suggests women simply don't belong there. That attitude gives rise to shameful incidents that make embarrassing news -- like the episode last year when a female middie was handcuffed to a urinal and photographed by male students.

As a new report from a seven-member panel of faculty, staff and students states, "low-level sexual harassment can pass as normal operating procedure" in some classrooms and groups. Given this fact, it's hardly surprising that the drop-out rate for women is higher than for men.

The academy has failed to make clear that sexist attitudes are unacceptable, and this represents a serious failure in the performance of its mission, which is to produce officers who will serve as officers and leaders in military service. Above all, those officers must understand that in a democracy, the military takes orders from civilian government. If the government decides women have a place in the military services and at the academies, then it is up to the military to loyally carry on -- without harassment of any kind. Clearly that has not happened at the Naval Academy; clearly it is time it did. When the lives of both men and women in the country's military services are at risk in the Middle East, the poor treatment of women that has long been tolerated at Annapolis is simply a disgrace.

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