Ex-State Department official to head second academy probe

September 28, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

A former State Department official will spearhead a second review of the U.S. Naval Academy's honor code, tarnished in the wake of the largest cheating scandal in the academy's history.

The review committee headed by Richard L. Armitage, a member of the academy's board of visitors, also will look into the cheating scandal and how the academy administration handled it, according to a statement the board released yesterday. The academy has begun its own review of the honor code with a committee of midshipmen, faculty and officers. Both reviews will work in concert and are expected to issue findings in December.

The 42-year-old honor code says that midshipmen will not "lie, cheat or steal." But the widening investigation of cheating on an electrical engineering exam last fall has left midshipmen, faculty and others wondering if the code is administered fairly and effectively.

At least 125 midshipmen have been implicated in the scandal by the Navy inspector general's office. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which conducted the initial probe, implicated 28 midshipmen and recommended 11 for dismissal by midshipmen honor boards. Academy officials later reduced that number to six.

Some faculty and midshipmen have complained that those who admitted their guilt in the cheating scandal now face expulsion, while those who lied went free. Others have said the honor code is not designed to handle large numbers of cases and is too severe for the smallest infraction.

The board of visitors committee is to assemble information on the cheating scandal and its investigation and report to the full board. In addition, it will request opinions on honor code problems from former and current midshipmen, civilian and military faculty, as well as former superintendents and commandants.

Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, the academy superintendent, told the board yesterday that he believes more midshipmen will be involved, but he defended how he and Capt. John B. Padgett, commandant of midshipmen, handled the initial inquiry.

"We both feel comfortable with the decisions made on the basis of information we had," he said.

Mr. Armitage is a 1967 academy graduate who recently served as aid administrator for the former Soviet Union.

The committee also includes board member Sen. John S. McCain, an Arizona Republican, and retired Vice Adm. James Calvert, academy superintendent from 1968 through 1972.

Assisting the committee will be Lloyd N. Cutler, former counselor to President Jimmy Carter; U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate of Mississippi; and Ronnie F. Liebowitz, former Rutgers University counsel who drafted that school's disciplinary code.

"We have to upgrade and update this policy as we go into the 21st century," Mr. McCain said. "We don't want this kind of thing to happen again."

William Ferris, a 1970 academy graduate and attorney for four of the midshipmen targeted for expulsion, faulted the honor code for leaving the key roles in the honor hearings to midshipmen rather than lawyers.

"They should have lawyers doing the prosecution and the defense," he said.

He complained that while midshipmen are allowed to consult lawyers, they cannot have legal counsel in the hearing room under current procedures.

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