Honor code likely to get 2nd review Scrutiny widens at Naval Academy

September 11, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

The U.S. Naval Academy's strict honor code, scarred by a major cheating scandal, is expected to undergo a second review by the academy's advisory board, assisted by a former presidential counsel and two other legal specialists.

The academy's Board of Visitors is likely to undertake its own review when it meets later this month, according to a congressional source.

The review would parallel one under way at the academy. Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, the academy's superintendent, formed a review panel in July that includes about a dozen midshipmen, faculty and officers.

The honor concept says simply that midshipmen do not "lie, cheat or steal." But the academy's largest cheating scandal in two decades, in which six midshipman were recommended for expulsion for cheating on last fall's electrical engineering exam, raised questions about administration of the code.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a board member and a 1958 academy graduate, discussed a separate review when the board held its last meeting in July.

Navy Secretary John H. Dalton, a 1964 academy graduate, wrote board Chairman James Cannon earlier this month, offering the assistance of Lloyd N. Cutler, counsel to President Jimmy Carter; U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate of Mississippi; and Ronnie F. Liebowitz, a New Jersey attorney and former Rutgers University counsel responsible for the university's disciplinary code.

Several members of the board would likely join the three legal specialists in the review, the source said. The advisory board is made up of six presidential appointees and nine members of Congress.

"We welcome this initiative," said academy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Paul Weishaupt. "We applaud any effort to make the honor code stronger."

The academy panel reported to Capt. John B. Padgett III, commandant of midshipmen, that the policy should be refined, saying that midshipmen do not have a "grasp" of the policy and professors do not have a clear idea how it should be administered.

Findings by the academy panel are expected by December.

Midshipmen and faculty members complained that those who lied about cheating on last fall's electrical engineering exam went unpunished, while those who owned up to their role are slated for dismissal.

Twenty-eight students were accused of studying from copies of the engineering exam. Eleven were recommended for expulsion by honor committees made up of midshipmen.

Top academy officials later cleared five, citing insufficient evidence.

In early May, three midshipmen approached the chairman of the brigade honor committee, saying they had overheard several classmates conspire to coordinate their testimony before honor boards. One student implicated three varsity football players in the scheme.

The following month, the Navy Inspector General's Office began an investigation into the handling of the scandal. Since then investigators have questioned more than 100 midshipmen in an ever-broadening probe.

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