Naval Academy teacher ousted from class for critical article Admiral Larson attacks 'falsehoods' in piece

April 03, 1996|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN STAFF

The U.S. Naval Academy, still rebuilding after cheating and drug scandals, has once again become embroiled in controversy, this time over more philosophical questions about its mission and free speech.

The academy on Monday removed an instructor from the classroom after he wrote a newspaper opinion article saying the academy "is plagued by a serious morale problem caused by a culture of hypocrisy, one that tolerates sexual harassment, favoritism, and the covering up of problems."

James F. Barry, 51, a Vietnam veteran who teaches leadership, was removed by academy officials and instructed to write a report within 30 days that would recommend solutions to the problems he cited.

The academy's superintendent, Adm. Charles R. Larson, held a meeting Monday with faculty and staff and another with senior midshipmen, according to people at the meetings, in which he attacked the article for its "half-truths and falsehoods."

The admiral urged those with problems to see him before "going outside the system," the sources said.

Mr. Barry, who was hockey coach until last year and has taught economics and leadership since 1989, said, "One who has a dissenting opinion can pay a terrible cost. What the midshipmen are seeing is what I'm saying in the article."

Sources said Mr. Barry told academy officials last night he would prefer to remain in the classroom, although Mr. Barry would not comment.

Capt. Tom Jurkowsky, an academy spokesman, said that after Mr. Barry completes his report, a decision would be made about whether he will return to the classroom. Mr. Barry has a contract through 1998, he said.

Academy officials noted that since he arrived at the academy in the wake of the cheating scandal in August 1994, Admiral Larson has instituted a series of reforms. The admiral crafted a character development program and a more intensive leadership curriculum, while tightening midshipmen's privileges. "The piece that Barry ran didn't acknowledge any of those changes," said Captain Jurkowsky, noting that the admiral will meet separately with each class through tomorrow to discuss the issue. , Mr. Barry criticized the academy for allegedly ignoring persistent charges of sexual harassment, valuing sports over academics and teaching leadership using multiple-choice tests.

The article has been debated throughout The Yard for the past two days, with some charging that Mr. Barry's attack was stale news, the result of "sour grapes."

"I think the current superintendent is trying to improve matters," said one professor, who asked not to be named. "I think he's trying to do the right thing."

Still, the professor said, removing Mr. Barry from the classroom was widely viewed by the faculty as a mistake.

Some midshipmen interviewed praised the article.

"He took our voices and put it into words," said a sophomore midshipman from Texas, noting that despite the cheating scandal, midshipmen still "don't want to rat on a classmate."

Another sophomore midshipman, who served in the Navy before coming to the academy, said officers appear more interested in their careers than the midshipmen. "That's a wrong lesson to learn here," he said.

Pub Date: 4/03/96

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