September 24, 2006

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- In a sweeping effort to stamp out sexual assaults and other problems stemming from alcohol abuse at the U.S. Naval Academy, school officials announced that they will use Breathalyzer tests and the threat of expulsion to force midshipmen to curtail their drinking.

The enforcement tactics tolerate no underage drinking or driving under the influence of alcohol. Since classes at the Annapolis military college resumed last month, midshipmen age 21 and older are limited to three drinks on a given night, and their blood-alcohol content is not to exceed 0.08 percent, the legal standard for drunken driving in many states, including Maryland.

Academy officials will give random breath tests to hundreds of midshipmen on weekends. Those who fail will be referred to the academy's substance abuse counseling program. Second-time offenders and those with blood-alcohol levels of 0.15 percent or higher will face restriction to the dormitory, 5 a.m. marches or expulsion.

What do you think of this new policy?

Midshipmen held to higher standard

Breathalyzer and threat of expulsion are segments of the corrective process; however, midshipmen must inculcate the true meaning of honorable representation of the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy is not a "normal" university - it is an institution that trains future naval and Marine Corps officers. Midshipmen have the moral responsibility to impeccably represent USNA and if they elect not to do so, they must be held accountable.

Jim Savard, USNA 1965 Littleton, Colo.

Rigorous lifestyle part of Mids' lives

It's outrageous that midshipmen have the opportunity (weekday town liberty) and time (less demanding academic, military and physical demands) to drink at all. One might dismiss my comment as: "The old guy doesn't like the way the academy has changed" (and they'd be correct!). The academy has been and should be today a place where the future combat officers of our nation are trained. Rigorous discipline and positive stress build the character these future officers will need.

Pete Savage, USNA 1963 Palo Alto, Calif.

Breathalyzers? Just use honor code

Though I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1987, and ran a 5K while juggling just last month, I must be getting old. I figure I must be getting old because of the stupidity of this, the latest of Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt's rants. This might even qualify as stupid, with two "o's".

Admiral Rempt, do they still have the honor concept at the Naval Academy? Oh, yeah? That so? Well, how about using it? You wouldn't need so many Breathalyzers, and a platoon of test administrators.

Earlier this year, Rempt inappropriately gave immunity to a female midshipman who was a regular binge drinker, hosted parties and participated in "inappropriate behavior" in her academy-unapproved apartment in town, and knowingly gave false testimony to investigators. She claimed she was raped. The jury said she wasn't.

Rempt has already stated he does not agree with the jury's findings of "not guilty" - yikes!

I guess we shouldn't be surprised when he comes up with an armada of Breathalyzers for his guilty-until-proven-innocent anti-alcohol-abuse plan (special exceptions made on a Rempt-as-needed-basis).

Dave Quint, USNA 1987 Columbia, Tenn.

Academy should act like military college

The problem never existed when I attended the Naval Academy because there was a rule, maybe even a law, that no midshipman could be served alcohol within an 8-mile radius of the Capitol dome. It appears to me that it worked then, and it should work now. Forget this political correctness garbage and act like a military institution, not an Ivy League wannabe.

Emil DiMotta, USNA 1962 Lakeland, Fla.

Policy demeans midshipmen

The new 0,0,10,3 policy is a first step in the right direction, but it is by no means a panacea that resolves the year-by-year drift of the incoming character of the raw material and some of the outgoing finished product.

The alumni Internet lists have been abuzz since the announcement of this latest fix. The general consensus has been that of skepticism about uneven enforcement. Will double standards involving women apply here as well as it did with the Owens matter?

If the policy is zero tolerance, why will first offenders get counseling? Let them get counseling as civilians! That's zero tolerance. We do not need officers that badly to suffer ones who only "slip" now and again. Ditto to male and female midshipmen who use Bancroft Hall as the no-tell motel.

It is a high-order insult to the hundreds of fine young men and women who have chosen to defend you, to be culled out of a line and subjected to random Breathalyzer tests. Even in our very permissive society, police officers can only conduct random stops and interviews. A test is only conducted if the officer has reasonable cause to believe that alcohol is involved.

Company-commissioned officers and midshipmen officers should be able to exercise similar judgments. If they cannot, remove them.

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