Navy's quarterback sneak Favoritism: Naval Academy muddles ban on sex between mids with its exception for gridiron star.

June 26, 1998

LOCATION, location, location may make all the difference in evaluating real estate. But it should not matter to the officers who run the U.S. Naval Academy in determining whether to expel midshipmen who have had sex with each other.

The academy's decision to expel freshman Felicia Harris, sophomore Kevin McGlathery and junior Aaron Smith for having sex on campus while allowing senior football star Chris McCoy to graduate rightly raises the specter of preferential treatment.

Retiring academy Superintendent Adm. Charles R. Larson said that even though Mr. McCoy violated a blanket rule that prohibits upperclassmen from dating freshmen, he was not expelled because his admitted liaison with Ms. Harris took place in a hotel room away from campus.

Sex between officers-in-training is the pivotal issue, not where it takes place. If the academy wants to inculcate the notion that female and male officers should not have relationships that jeopardize their ability to carry out their duties, it shouldn't imply that such conduct is acceptable "there" but not "here."

Midshipmen are young adults with normal urges. Celibacy is not a requirement for enrollment. Still, midshipmen are attending a taxpayer-financed institution. The rules -- from dress to meals to other obligations -- are different from rules imposed on students at nonmilitary colleges.

Midshipmen should be expected to exercise and learn the same restraint that they will need once they become officers. Romantic entanglements don't stop at land's end. Whether the partners are coupling at sea or on land, the potential damage to ship or unit discipline -- and to military effectiveness -- is as potent.

It appears that Admiral Larson's hairsplitting is a transparent justification for selective treatment of a football hero (who also wants to be excused early from his Navy commitment to play professionally for the Green Bay Packers). That is not the message the academy should send to present and future midshipmen.

Pub Date: 6/26/98

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