NAVAL ACADEMY Superintendent Adm. Charles R. Larson's decision to discipline, rather than expel, a female midshipman for lying about missing a dinner should bolster the institution's strict honor concept. Lying is a serious honor offense at the academy, and the handling of this case doesn't undercut that basic precept.
Admiral Larson's decision was not easy. Four days before graduating, Naomi Jackson was accused of lying to her roommate about missing her company's final dinner. A midshipmen-run honor board found her guilty and recommended that she be expelled. So did the academy's second-in-command.
Ms. Jackson is one of four female midshipmen who have accused Scott T. Ward, a popular student leader, of sexually assaulting them. On the day that Ms. Jackson missed the dinner, she had testified at a Navy hearing in Washington investigating Mr. Ward. Ms. Jackson told Admiral Larson she was emotionally distraught after the hearing and had not intended to lie about the reasons for missing the dinner. Ms. Jackson, who missed graduation, will have the opportunity to redeem herself. If she successfully completes a two-month period of study and reflection, she will obtain her degree and officer's commission.
To his credit, Admiral Larson recognized that the unusual circumstances of this case made expulsion an inappropriate punishment that could only provoke more controversy.
Admiral Larson intends to have every midshipman comply with the honor code. If expulsion is seen as the only punishment for every violation, midshipmen will be reluctant to report honor code infractions. The superintendent correctly decided that fair and equitable punishment is likely to ensure a higher degree of honor code compliance at the academy than one that resorts only to harsh sanctions.
Pub Date: 7/04/96