Women attending the Naval Academy are increasingly positive about how they are treated at the Annapolis military college, according to annual survey results released yesterday to its civilian oversight board.
Fifty-four percent of female midshipmen now believe the school "provides a positive environment" for them, up 12 percentage points since 2005.
"That's a dramatic increase and a real improvement," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who sits on the Board of Visitors, made up of members of Congress and presidential appointees.
The apparent progress in improving the academy culture - which a Pentagon task force deemed "hostile" to women last year - also won praise from retiring Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, who will leave the board after 27 years.
But Sarbanes pointed to one result - that 8 percent of women at the academy say "sexual harassment has impeded my development as a midshipman" - and said it was still "too high."
Although 7 percent of female midshipmen answered the question affirmatively in 2004 and 2005, the latest results were much lower than in 1996, when 24 percent of women said sexual harassment hindered their development.
Women in the latest survey also were more likely than men to recommend the academy to friends and reported having greater overall satisfaction at the school than men.
The survey, administered in October to 90 percent of sophomores, juniors and seniors, also polled them about their attitudes about the academy's disciplinary system and the prevalence of racial or ethnic discrimination.
Although victims advocates have lauded the Naval Academy and other service academies for how they've improved campus culture and attitudes toward women, all three have struggled to hold students accountable for sexual misconduct.
Last week, a new probable cause hearing was scheduled for Dec. 20 in the military trial of Kenny Ray Morrison, a former football player accused of raping and drugging two women in separate incidents. New evidence has raised doubts about whether the alleged victims were drugged.
Lamar S. Owens Jr., Navy's standout quarterback in 2005, was acquitted of rape charges in July but found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer.
He and Morrison have been reassigned to the Washington Navy Yard while they await the outcome of their cases.
No midshipman or cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy has ever been convicted of rape in a court-martial, according to both schools. Army prosecutors at the U.S. Military Academy only recently won a rape conviction against a former cadet who is now serving eight years in prison.