Discipline in academy cheating scandal lauded

April 19, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

Navy Secretary John H. Dalton said yesterday he was pleased with the disciplinary results of the U.S. Naval Academy's largest cheating scandal, despite concerns that justice still has not been served.

"I feel good about the process," Mr. Dalton said yesterday after meeting with the academy's civilian Board of Visitors.

Twenty-nine midshipmen were recommended for expulsion by a five-member panel of officers headed by Vice Adm. Richard C. Allen. The panel received 106 of the most serious cases from among the 134 midshipmen implicated in the December 1992 scandal involving an electrical engineering test.

Nearly all of the remaining midshipmen were either exonerated or received punishments short of expulsion from the Allen panel and an earlier disciplinary board of officers.

Some midshipmen, alumni, parents and faculty members question why relatively few faced the severest penalty, considering that 81 midshipmen admitted cheating. The academy's strict honor concept states: "Midshipmen are persons of integrity: they do not lie, cheat or steal."

Mr. Dalton said the Allen panel reached its decisions by looking at the "total midshipman," a review that included not only a student's role in the scandal, but also his entire academy career.

The Navy secretary, a 1964 academy graduate, said he expects to release more information on how the cases were decided after receiving Admiral Allen's report. "We certainly want people to know what the process was," he said.

Mr. Dalton also said he expects recommendations this week from Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, the chief of naval operations, on which of the 29 midshipmen should be expelled. He then will make a final decision on the midshipmen's fate and penalties, although he said he was uncertain when that would be.

Besides expulsion, those midshipmen also face either three years of service as a sailor or payment of $80,000 for their taxpayer-funded education. Mr. Dalton can choose one of those penalties or waive them.

During yesterday's board meeting, academy officials released more details on the cheating scandal and the results of the punishments of midshipmen.

Capt. John B. Padgett, commandant of midshipmen, said 26 percent of those found in violation of the honor concept were varsity athletes, who account for 28.5 percent of the brigade of midshipmen. He dismissed speculation that the football team was deeply involved in the cheating scandal.

Also, 27 percent of violators attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) in Newport, R.I., a 10-month college preparatory course for those seeking Naval Academy appointments. Those midshipmen account for 18 percent of the student body.

Captain Padgett said the high number of NAPS graduates owes more to close ties among those students than failings of the prep school. Still, he said Navy officials will take steps to boost honor training at NAPS.

The 59 midshipmen recommended for punishment as a result of their role in the scandal will receive their diplomas and commissions after their class graduates May 25. They will graduate on four occasions between May 27 and Aug. 11, said Captain Padgett, who said he expected each group to receive "some sort of small ceremony."

Punishment for those midshipmen includes restriction to the academy, remedial honor training and -- in the case of cheating -- retaking abbreviated EE311 course.

Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, the academy's superintendent, said the cheating scandal was "a tremendous disappointment to me" and stressed that the academy is refocusing on honor training.

Marine Col. Michael W. Hagee, a 1968 academy graduate appointed last month to the new post of "character development officer," told board members that the entire academy NTC community, from professors and coaches to officers and midshipmen leaders, will be involved in enhanced honor training.

He noted that some midshipmen will debate whether an infraction is an honor offense or a conduct offense, rather than simply ask: "Is this the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?"

"Leaders of character is what we're after," he said. "We want to establish an ethical attitude here at the Naval Academy."

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