Senator plans hearings on cheating at academy

January 26, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer Staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

The senator who urged the Navy's Inspector General to investigate a cheating scandal at the U.S. Naval Academy that grew to implicate 133 midshipmen now plans to hold congressional hearings on the scandal.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, D-Ala., is expected to schedule hearings in the coming weeks, said Stacy Smith, his press aide.

But Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., a member of the academy's Board of Visitors, argued in a statement that the hearings are not necessary.

"Congress has already acted," she said. "The Inspector General has done a tough and thorough investigation. It is time now to let the Navy and the Naval Academy put their house in order."

Mr. Shelby, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee's personnel subcommittee, declined comment yesterday on the report, which was released Monday.

The report, which said 81 midshipmen admitted they had advance copies of an electrical engineering final exam in December 1992, criticized the academy's administration for mishandling the initial probe of the scandal. It also said the superintendent, Rear Admiral Thomas C. Lynch, created a "perception" that he lacked a commitment to the strict honor code and gave favorable treatment to football players.

But Richard L. Armitage, a former State Department official who headed a committee that recommended an overhaul of the honor code, complained that the superintendent's staff let him down. His committee, as well as the IG, found that the honor code has been "on the back burner at the academy . . . for a long time."

Mr. Armitage, a Naval Academy graduate, said he hopes to testify at the hearings.

The hearings are expected to take a close look at both the way the academy handled the scandal and the administration of the honor code itself.

While they would focus on the Naval Academy, they may be expanded to look into the honor codes at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy, a source said.

Meanwhile, the IG report, which was made available to faculty, officers and students yesterday through the electronic mail system, was the main topic of conversation at the academy.

Sophomores worried aloud about taking the electrical engineering course, which is legendary for its difficulty and required of all juniors. Juniors cornered professors in the electrical engineering department to talk about the scandal.

For the seniors who were implicated, the future is uncertain. As many as 100 of them could be dismissed before graduation and be required to pay the government back for their educations or serve three years as an enlisted sailor.

"Everyone's down, and no one knows what is really going on," said a 22-year-old senior who asked not to be identified.

Another midshipman said he was happy the scandal was coming to an end. "There were all these rumors. This whole thing has been hanging over our heads."

Faculty members found the report a vindication of their complaints that the administration mishandled the scandal from the start. One senior faculty member was not surprised at the extent of the cheating.

"It blows me away that they think midshipmen are different from other college students," said the professor, who asked not to be identified. "For them to insist on the one hand that society is changing and on the other hand that the midshipmen are all elite in terms of honor, that's just absurd."

Meanwhile, three retired admirals appointed by Admiral Lynch to sort through the cases against the midshipmen already were locked in a conference room with the files.

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