Navy to give academy cheating probe files

January 10, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

The Navy's inspector general is expected to turn over to Naval Academy officials as early as Friday the names of 125 midshipmen implicated in the largest cheating scandal in the school's history.

Sources familiar with the inspector general's investigation said the report will not conclude the guilt or innocence of midshipmen involved in the theft and distribution of an electrical engineering final in December 1992, but will provide individual files on those investigated.

"They will say these are the facts," said a senior Navy official who requested anonymity.

It will take some time after the report is released to determine which midshipmen should be expelled or face other disciplinary action, the sources said.

"Obviously there's a whole range of involvement. Some were innocently involved," the Navy official said.

Some midshipmen had little knowledge of the stolen exam, and others assumed it was a practice test.

Naval Academy officials are to review the files and determine which cases should be handled by midshipman honor boards and which should go to hearings overseen by officers.

Nearly all of the estimated 700 juniors who took the semester final for Electrical Engineering 311, one of the toughest required courses at the academy, on Dec. 14, 1992, were interviewed by investigators for the Navy inspector general's office, who spent seven months probing the scandal.

Meanwhile, the academy is preparing for the release of the report.

During a speech last week in alumni hall, Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, the superintendent, told the entire 4,100-member brigade midshipmen the report would soon be released.

A senior who took the exam and was interviewed by Navy investigators said Admiral Lynch told the brigade he was uncertain whether he would speak separately with the senior class about the report before talking to the entire brigade.

"Everybody's kind of holding their breath," said the midshipman, who asked not to be identified.

While they wait for the report, academy officials are making plans to process the increased numbers of midshipmen they expect to be recommended for expulsion, a task that includes stocking up on the necessary forms, an academy source said.

Lynch plans meeting

Admiral Lynch also has scheduled a meeting Wednesday with (( the academy faculty to discuss the report, according to several professors.

It still is uncertain whether the report will be critical of the academy's administration, the Navy source said.

The report is expected to offer more details about how a master copy of the exam was stolen from the copying center several days before it was to be administered and distributed in Bancroft Hall, the huge dormitory that houses all midshipmen.

In addition, the report is expected to address the midshipmen's honor code, which some say failed during the scandal.

The code states simply that midshipmen do not "lie, cheat or steal," and violators generally face expulsion. But some midshipmen, faculty members and others have said that only those who told the truth about their roles in the scandal were punished, while those who lied went free.

Initially, 28 midshipmen were implicated, and 11 were recommended for dismissal by midshipman honor boards last spring. Academy officials reduced that number to six, saying the evidence was insufficient to expel the others.

Final action postponed

Navy Secretary John H. Dalton, a 1964 academy graduate who makes the final decision on dismissals, postponed action until the investigation is complete.

In June, the Senate Armed Services Committee, reacting to news reports about the academy's handling of the scandal, asked the inspector general to reopen the investigation.

Last month, an academy advisory committee recommended dozens of changes in the 42-year-old honor code, including one that would make it harder to expel a midshipman by allowing honor boards to recommend punishments other than dismissal.

Those recommendations, which generally call for beefing up midshipmen's education about the honor code and earlier legal review of alleged honor violations, also have been reviewed by IG investigators and Mr. Dalton.

To avoid a repetition of the electrical engineering exam scandal, the advisory committee recommended that a new exam be written immediately after one is reported stolen and that professors not be able to give the same exam more than once.

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