Naval Academy takes a dim view with closed mind


March 27, 1991|By ROGER SIMON

Ever hug someone? Ever kiss someone on the cheek?

Unless you are a hermit or a very unpleasant person, I'll bet you have.

But did you consider it a "sexual" act every time you did it?

Probably not. To some, a social kiss on the cheek or a quick hug is no more than a handshake.

And it seems to me that I recently saw a returning soldier, who had been held captive in Iraq, hug and kiss a whole bunch of people, including his fellow officers, when he got back to U.S. soil.

He was feeling good and they were feeling good, and they expressed it in an emotional, non-sexual way.

So all I can say is these people are very, very lucky they are not in the U.S. Naval Academy.

Because it was recently revealed by Scott Harper of the Annapolis Capital that two midshipmen, a man and a woman, were kicked out of the Naval Academy after indulging in a platonic hug and kiss.

Here's what happened:

Casey Jones was a company commander, an honor board officer, a varsity cheerleader and Mr. Clean: In three years at the Naval Academy, he had never gotten a single demerit.

Younger midshipmen went to him for advice. One such person was sophomore Donna Kuntz.

Last Sept. 9 at 1:30 a.m., Jones was asleep in his room when Kuntz came in and asked if she could talk. She sat down on his bed and they talked. Jones' roommate was across the room asleep.

When Jones and Kuntz finished their conversation, she thanked him for being such a good friend, hugged and then kissed him on the cheek.

And that was it. Except another midshipman, conducting a bed check, saw the two and reported them.

Jones and Kuntz were then questioned about the incident. After all, you can't have future naval officers running around expressing human emotion, can you?

The academy contends that when the two were questioned about the hug and kiss -- which the academy admits was not a sexual exchange -- they denied it and then later admitted it.

Jones tells a different story. He says he was asked if he had violated any rules on sexual misconduct. "Under these rules," the newspaper noted, "a kiss, a hug or any other kind of touching can only be considered illegal if it can be deemed sexual."

Jones and Kuntz both replied they had not violated any rule on sexual misconduct. When asked if they had hugged and kissed, they both say they admitted it.

Because this matter was an "honor" violation, the two were tried by a conduct board made up of their fellow classmates. And the conduct board recommended that the case be dropped. But then a second hearing was held, because the investigating officer "had done a poor job," the board decided.

At the second hearing, the board decided that the charges against Jones and Kuntz had been substantiated and they sent the case upstairs.

Rear Adm. Joseph W. Prueher, then-commandant of midshipmen, recommended that the two be dismissed and Rear Adm. Virgil L. Hill Jr., superintendent of the Naval Academy, agreed. Hill, who did not return my calls on the matter, sent his recommendation for dismissal to the secretary of the Navy, who upheld it in January.

And so both Jones and Kuntz were tossed out of the academy.

Wait, you say. Isn't this a little strange? A little overboard? Isn't the alleged "lie" really a case of confusion over a harmless matter?

But the Naval Academy obviously feels such conduct is very, very serious. What conduct is not so serious at the Naval Academy?

Well, handcuffing a woman to a urinal, that's not nearly so serious. For that action, the academy dismissed nobody.

That was the case of Gwen Dreyer. She was the third generation of her family to attend the Naval Academy. And on Dec. 8, 1989, she was abducted from her room by two male midshipmen, dragged to a men's washroom down the hall, handcuffed to a urinal, taunted, and then photographed for the amusement of the other midshipmen who couldn't witness the assault in person.

Later, after a considerable amount of time had passed, Dreyer became convinced the Naval Academy was not taking her case seriously and she quit.

What happened to her attackers? Not much. Admiral Hill was not nearly so outraged at this. He said that the incident involving Dreyer "grew out of a good-natured exchange between friends" and had not been "premeditated." (He must believe his midshipmen carry handcuffs with them wherever they go.)

Two of Dreyer's attackers were given some demerits and lost about a month's leave. Eight others were give written warnings.

And that was that.

This set off a huge stink in Congress, however. A number of investigations were launched and these resulted in findings that there was a problem in the way women were both perceived and treated at the Naval Academy.

And the Navy solemnly promised to clean up the problem. Apparently it has now found a way to do so.

When a woman is the victim, everybody drags his feet, her attackers are given slaps on the wrist and the woman leaves the academy.

When a woman is the "wrongdoer," she is tossed out of the academy.

It's a nifty solution, you must admit:

To get rid of the woman problem, you just get rid of the women.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.