Academy to rule in exam case Cheating at issue in December test

February 09, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

The Naval Academy is expected to announce disciplinary action today against a number of midshipmen involved in cheating on a final exam for one of the toughest courses at the school, officials said.

A preliminary investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has found that some students obtained copies of an electrical engineering test before it was given in December, an academy spokesman confirmed yesterday.

"I know it does not involve any one group," said Cmdr. Mike John, the spokesman. "It does not involve large numbers of students, not at all."

He said he did not know how many students had cheated on the exam, whether it was for sale in the dormitory, or whether a new test would have to be given. More information is expected to be released this morning.

Some 700 midshipmen took the junior-level course, which is mandatory for all non-engineering majors, last fall.

One or more midshipmen apparently intercepted the exam for Electrical Engineering 311 on its way to the Naval Academy copy center. Several copies of the test were sold in the Bancroft Hall dorm, according to professors, a former faculty member and a source close to the investigation.

The academy's superintendent, Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, ordered an investigation in mid-December after a master copy for the exam vanished three days before the test was to be given.

Another master copy of the test was photocopied after the first one disappeared, and the test was administered as scheduled on Dec. 14. A day later, a midshipman complained that copies of the test had been circulating in Bancroft Hall.

The preliminary results of the probe have been turned over to Admiral Lynch, and the investigation continues.

Students at the academy follow a strict honor system, which states: "Midshipmen are persons of integrity; they do not lie, cheat or steal."

Violators usually are dismissed. Midshipmen who cheat, or are aware that others did and fail to report them, could also be found guilty of violating the academy's honor code.

The students accused of cheating will be given the chance to plead their cases before an honor board made up of midshipmen.

If the students are found guilty, their cases will be reviewed by the brigade ethics adviser, the staff judge advocate and the commandant of midshipmen, who makes a recommendation for punishment to the superintendent.

The exam has caused controversy in the past. In May 1990, a faculty member discovered the electrical engineering office had been broken into, and an exam was creased along the edges, indicating possible tampering. No action was taken because investigators could not determine if the test had been copied.

Earlier that year, a committee reviewed the electrical engineering courses after a faculty uproar over the removal of the department's chairman. Professors also complained that they were being ordered to raise grades.

Dr. Ralph P. Santoro was forced to step down after allegedly refusing an administrator's demands to raise grades across-the-board in the required courses.

Dr. Santoro said yesterday that "that was the reason," for his demotion, but declined to discuss it at greater length.

A committee of scholars from the nation's four service academies concluded in August that grades were fair in two mandatory courses, despite the large number of students failing them.

The panel dismissed criticism of a required, two-semester overview for engineering majors. While the committee also found the basic course for non-engineers was designed to meet the standards for Navy officers, it noted that the curriculum was more demanding than at other service academies.

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