Naval Academy anthem drops references to men

Lyrics excluding women changed before graduation

May 21, 2004|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

Before tossing their caps into the air to celebrate graduation May 28, the Naval Academy's class of 2004 will belt out a decidedly different version of an old standard - "Navy Blue & Gold," a school anthem since 1923.

The academy superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, dropped this week two references to "men" from the song, saying the lyrics inadvertently excluded women.

"It was time, to say the least," said the superintendent, standing on the steps of the academy chapel yesterday to watch plebes - or freshmen - scramble to climb Herndon Monument in an annual tradition.

If the midshipmen don't trip over the new lyrics, they'll sing:

Now colleges from sea to sea, instead of Now college men from sea to sea.

And in the third verse: For sailors brave in battle fair since fighting days of old, instead of For sailor men in battle fair ... .

When asked what inspired the decision, Rempt, who took charge of the academy in August, said it was not pressure from an individual or group. Rather, he said that after pondering a change for some time, he realized the need at a women's basketball game.

"We were standing on the court and the women had played their hearts out," he said. "And there we were, singing this song."

Rempt said he then decided to ax "men" from the fight song, sung at sporting events and graduation ceremonies.

"We need to make sure that we're inclusive of everyone," he said, referring to the academy's 3,000 female midshipmen and graduates. Women were first admitted into the Annapolis military college in 1976, and make up about 16 percent of the student body.

Quinn Rinehart, a senior who serves as brigade commander - the highest ranking midshipman at the academy - said she backs the change.

"I support the administration on this," said the 22-year-old, who will serve in the Marine Corps.

"Being a female makes no difference in how I feel about it. I think some people are unwilling to accept change but in the long run, it's a good thing."

Other midshipmen were tight-lipped when asked about the song, referring reporters to the school's public affairs office.

At the academy's alumni association, spokesman Skid Heyworth said there was little buzz about the change.

"A decision was made by the superintendent and we support that decision," Heyworth said, adding that Rempt sought feedback from the board of trustees and the board of visitors before announcing the change to midshipmen Tuesday night.

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