More starch at the Naval Academy Battered image: Mids seek more disciplined atmosphere after series of misdeeds.

April 30, 1996

MIDSHIPMEN THINK the U.S. Naval Academy should be more military. After a week-long stand-down, in which liberty was restricted and privileges curtailed, the 4,000 midshipmen -- through their student leaders -- asked the administration to tighten up requirements at the school. Given the numerous embarrassing incidents involving allegations of misdeeds and criminal conduct by midshipmen, the academy's administration is likely to comply.

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the midshipmen crave a more disciplined and military atmosphere. Only a handful of the corps' members are responsible for the academy's bad image. The vast majority of young men and women at the school in

Annapolis are hard-working, well-disciplined and have a great deal of pride in their institution and the service. They recognize that a tightly controlled environment will reduce the opportunities for misbehavior by a relative handful who can't seem to control themselves.

Since taxpayers finance the operations of the Naval Academy, maintaining a good image is essential to staying in the public's good graces. While that may not matter to the midshipmen, it does matter to the administration and to the Navy and Marines, where academy graduates will serve. Battered by the recent spate of allegations involving drug use, sexual misconduct, car theft and breaking and entering, the academy's image is in serious need of some polish. Segments of the public no longer see the place as a molder of officers, but as a hotbed of misconduct. Such an appearance not only hurts the academy; it compromises the authority and effectiveness of the graduates who will assume positions of command.

Improving the academy's reputation is only a small part of what seems to be generating the demands. Midshipmen apparently want to restore the military edge to a school that they feel has come to resemble, in too many ways, a civilian college. It doesn't matter whether their perceptions are correct. They desire a superior educational experience that is not readily available elsewhere. These midshipmen also recognize that adhering to a rigorous regime of intellectual, physical and psychological drills will best prepare them as modern warriors who are a cut above.

Pub Date: 4/30/96

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