A tough-love policy on errant midshipmen

Misconduct rules: Restrictions are clear, yet every year a handful of midshipmen run afoul of them.

April 12, 1999

EVERY YEAR a few midshipmen are "separated" from the Naval Academy for sexual misconduct. For some of these individuals who are close to completing four mentally and physically demanding years, the process may seem incredibly unfair and arbitrary.

It is true that academy rules prohibit romantic and sexual relations between midshipmen that are commonplace at other institutions of higher learning. But the academy's policy is no different from what the Navy demands of its officers once they join the fleet -- a work environment much different from the corporate, government or academic world most college graduates enter.

Although the Naval Academy has been co-educational for 22 years, the number of improper relationships among Mids that result in expulsion is usually less than a half-dozen each year. The problem is devasting for the individuals involved, especially the closer they are to graduation, but most midshipmen seem able to control themselves.

If there is a problem, it is the perception punishment is uneven for midshipmen who violate rules on fraternization and sex on campus. Some complain that certain midshipmen are expelled while others receive reprimands. Part of the confusion is that academy officials make careful distinctions among the various sexual misconduct infractions.

They point out that the punishment for a kiss is much different from that for sexual intercourse. And a kiss between a plebe and an upperclassman is treated differently from one between upperclassmen.

The academy's rules are explicit and widely disseminated within the brigade. If following these rules is difficult for some, those midshipmen would be better off enrolling in a school where such rules don't exist.

Pub Date: 4/12/99

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