Naval Academy teachers tell of low morale

June 03, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Faculty members at the U.S. Naval Academy sent a clear message yesterday that their morale has sunk to its lowest point in the wake of the school's recent cheating scandal.

In an unprecedented meeting with the academy's Board of Visitors, about 150 civilian and military professors said they feel disenfranchised and called for an overhaul of the honor system, according to those who attended.

"They want to be involved. They want to be listened to, and they feel they have not been sufficiently," said James M. Cannon, chairman of the advisory board, made up of six presidential appointees and nine members of Congress.

But Mr. Cannon told reporters later that he believes "the perception is worse than the reality."

The Board of Visitors' academic affairs committee plans to make some recommendations to improve morale, but doesn't want to interpose between the faculty and administration, he said.

Twenty-eight midshipmen were charged last winter with cheating on the final exam for Electrical Engineering 311, one of the toughest required courses at school. Honor boards made up of midshipmen and top administration officials cleared all but six of the accused.

A number of professors have since criticized the administration of the honor concept, which says that midshipmen "do not lie, cheat or steal."

In a two-hour meeting yesterday, they raised concerns about dropping academic standards and lack of recognition of the faculty, as well as the administration of the honor code.

A 1992 academy graduate joined the professors in questioning whether the honor system is enforced effectively and fairly, Mr. Cannon acknowledged.

The graduate, now a Navy ensign, pointed out that students often cover for their friends and that honor cases boil down to one person's word against another, said Michael Clark, a history professor.

A handful of professors also objected to the reappointment of Dean Robert H. Shapiro.

One faculty member called for his resignation, professors said.

"It was pretty frank," said Mr. Clark, who wrote a 10-page letter to U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski outlining faculty concerns this year.

But Mr. Cannon said discussions about issues, including salaries, outweighed concerns about the dean.

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