Midshipmen now allowed to lock doors Dorm policy changed after female students complain of assaults

'Greater sense' of security

Also, 2 staff members involved in contention are leaving academy

August 29, 1996|By Scott Shane and JoAnna Daemmrich | Scott Shane and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

In the wake of several complaints of sexual assaults in the dormitory, the Naval Academy has reversed a long-standing policy requiring midshipmen to keep their doors unlocked at night.

As students returned to Annapolis this month, Adm. Charles R. Larson, the academy superintendent, ordered the change at the recommendation of the Women Midshipmen Study Committee, a spokesman said yesterday.

The group took up the issue after The Sun reported last month that the academy required unlocked doors around the clock despite complaints from female students about unwanted late-night visits to their rooms by male classmates.

"They just examined the evidence and anecdotal information they had and decided the [new] policy was worth moving forward with," said academy spokesman Noel Milan. "There's a perception at least that this policy needs implementing."

Midshipmen may use the deadbolts on their doors from midnight to 6: 30 a.m. as long as only their roommates are in the room, Milan said.

The old policy that doors remain unlocked except with special permission was sharply criticized this summer after four female students accused senior Scott T. Ward, the third-ranking midshipman, of sexually assaulting them in their dorm rooms.

Ward, 23, of Grand Rapids, Mich., avoided criminal prosecution but has been ordered expelled for a lesser charge of sexual misconduct.

Last year, a sophomore was expelled after two women accused him of entering their rooms drunk and assaulting them, while a third charged he made unwanted sexual advances in a stairwell.

The policy change brings the Naval Academy into line with the Army and Air Force academies, which began permitting locked doors in recent years. All three service academies admitted women 20 years ago and now are about 15 percent female.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Sue W. Kelly, a New York Republican who represents one of Ward's accusers, applauded the academy's decision.

"It will give all midshipmen a greater sense of personal security," said the spokesman, Dan Boston.

Also yesterday, the academy announced the departures of two controversial figures. Civilian instructor James F. Barry, whose critical newspaper essay provoked a wrenching philosophical debate about the academy's mission, resigned this month. And Dean Robert H. Shapiro, who angered some faculty members with what they called a dictatorial management style, plans to retire.

Both decisions to depart were voluntary, Milan said. Barry resigned "to return to the day-to-day management of a growing real estate development business," according to a statement released by the academy. Shapiro will retire to North Carolina during the 1997-1998 academic year.

Neither could be reached for comment last night.

The resignations come as Larson, who has coped with a barrage of negative publicity this year involving student misconduct and faculty discontent, seeks to restore stability and improve morale at the Navy's prestigious school for future officers.

Larson was infuriated by the criticism of the academy in Barry's March 31 essay in the Washington Post, attacking it as a betrayal and immediately removing Barry from the classroom.

Barry was allowed to return to teaching only after protests from faculty members and the American Association of University Professors.

Barry, a Vietnam veteran who taught leadership courses for eight years, charged in his essay that the academy "is plagued by a serious morale problem caused by a culture of hypocrisy."

His argument that the Navy's future officers "become immersed in an ethically corrupting system" drew an outpouring of support and criticism from students, faculty and alumni.

Barry responded to Larson's demand for solutions with a lengthy report that included two-dozen recommendations, from convening an outside panel to review the academy to hiring more women, and presented it to the institution's advisory board.

The board decided to tighten admissions screening and hold midshipmen to a higher military standard after a rash of wrongdoing allegations in the spring, including a car-theft ring, an LSD scandal, two child sexual abuse arrests and the Ward case.

Shapiro, who has held the top academic post at the academy since 1989, was praised by Larson for raising standards.

NTC "Dean Shapiro has played a key role in the Naval Academy's achieving its current outstanding level of academic excellence, and he has improved an already very high quality product which he inherited when he arrived," Larson said in a statement.

But Shapiro stirred considerable resentment among faculty members in 1990, when he ordered the electrical engineering department to raise some students' failing grades.

In 1993, in the wake of a cheating scandal in which scores of midshipmen passed around copies of an electrical engineering exam, professors sought a meeting with the supervisory board.

At the meeting, more than 150 civilian and military professors raised concerns about the administration of the honor code and a lack of recognition of the faculty. A handful objected to the reappointment of the dean, and some called outright for his resignation.

A humanities professor who has taught at the academy 15 years complained in a recent interview of Shapiro's leadership style, saying it "involves too much fear and intimidation." The professor, who asked not to be named, said the academy should have "a tolerance of open conversation and rational discourse."

Pub Date: 8/29/96

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