Naval Academy honor code shifts urged

December 17, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- A Naval Academy advisory committee has recommended sweeping changes in the midshipmen's 42-year-old honor code, which has been sharply criticized following the largest cheating scandal in academy history.

The Board of Visitors, made up of presidential and congressional appointees, recommended dozens of changes, including one that would make it harder to expel a midshipman because it would allow honor boards to recommend punishments other than dismissal.

The changes generally call for more rigorous training in the honor code and a strict legal review of alleged honor offenses.

The report yesterday from the 15-member board now goes to Navy Secretary John H. Dalton, who is expected to approve the recommendations within the next two months.

The honor code states simply that midshipmen "do not lie, cheat or steal." But the administration of that code has come under examination as the cheating scandal surrounding last year's final exam for Electrical Engineering 311 has continued to expand.

One hundred twenty-five midshipmen have been implicated by the Navy's inspector general in the theft and distribution of the exam, sources have said.

Some midshipmen and faculty have complained that the concept is not administered fairly. They complained that those who admitted their guilt in the cheating scandal were recommended for dismissal and those who lied went free.

Board of Visitors sources said the report recommendations include:

* Allowing the honor board to suggest punishment. An honor offense now usually results in dismissal. The punishments could include restriction to the campus, loss of leadership posts and prohibitions on participation in sports or other activities.

* Allowing an accused midshipmen to call a recess in an honor proceeding to consult with a lawyer outside the hearing room. The lawyer still could not attend the hearing.

* Expanding the size of honor boards from seven to nine midshipmen, and requiring a two-thirds vote to reach a guilty verdict instead of a simple majority. Some academy superintendents have overturned 4-3 votes, creating an impression of favoritism, said board sources.

* Getting military lawyers involved in the early stages of the review of alleged honor violations.

* Making the academy's honor officer, now a lieutenant, either a Navy captain or Marine colonel to show the importance of honor at the academy.

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