We want your opinions

April 08, 2007

ISSUE:

The Naval Academy has acknowledged that up to 10 of its midshipmen had exhibited "misguided/immature" behavior last month while on a spring break trip to the Caribbean on a commercial cruise ship. Academy officials began investigating the incident after a female passenger e-mailed a complaint to them, saying she had witnessed groping, excessive drinking and efforts to encourage underage passengers to drink alcohol. The behavior took place while the Mids were in uniform and civilian clothing.

"I was `felt up' by one of the very drunk men and I was given the misfortune of watching them grab and disrespect every woman they could get close to as well as seeing them offer the underage (15 and 17 year old) girls at our table alcohol," the woman wrote in her e-mail. "I cannot tell you strongly enough how EMBARRASSED these `gentlemen' made me feel to be an American. I can only imagine what the foreigners on our ship and in port thought of us."

The academy says a preliminary inquiry found no criminal activity. However, it warned in a written statement, "Any midshipmen who acted inappropriately will be held accountable, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken."

YOUR VIEW:

What punishment, if any, do you think the academy should impose on midshipmen who are found to have engaged in this behavior?

Need to blow off steam isn't unusual

First of all, I would like to know if the woman who wrote the letter to the school is in the military, or has family in the military, or has any other kind of authority to decide how those in the military should act aside from being from "Pat Tillman country."

I can only imagine that between the rigorous physical and academic requirements put on these Mids 90 percent of the time, the need to blow off a bit of steam over spring break isn't unusual.

If all of these allegations were true, I would understand the concerns but I truly believe that most of them are the creation of an extremely uptight woman who made a strange decision to take a cruise on Carnival - well known for its party atmosphere - during spring break.

Furthermore, she and her husband both admit that the only thing offensive about them was the fact that they were Mids. I find it strange that she would be perfectly fine with this behavior had all of her allegations been committed by a group of students who hadn't signed up to fight for the country she claims to so dearly love.

The academy has dealt with serious problems in recent years surrounding issues such as rape - which are legitimate concerns and should be dealt with accordingly, severely punishing all who are found guilty.

However, an attempt to dance with an older woman in an obviously joking manner is not even close to falling in the same category. For either the paper or the woman to associate the two is simply disrespectful to actual rape victims.

I'm also confused as to how these mids were acting inappropriately while in uniform throughout the duration of the cruise but at the same time continuously wore nothing but Speedos, cowboy boots and cowboy hats. The last time I checked, that outfit is not considered a standard regulation uniform.

Eleni Himaras Boston

Article an attempt to smear academy

Your newspaper's standards have reached a new low. Bradley Olson has taken unsubstantiated rumors confirmed by anonymous Web site forum sources and, with no facts, has attempted to smear the academy. What is an even more ludicrous attempt at your paper to reach an even greater low, you have asked your readers, who have not been presented any facts at all, to determine "punishment" for these offenders. Just because you can write stories without facts does not give you the right to ask your readers to reach conclusions based on the same lack of facts.

You owe journalism, which I am not sure you even know anything about, an apology.

Owen McLean Taylorsville, N.C.

Media agenda weakens discipline

"Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."

The liberal movement and major media agenda of creating a more egalitarian environment at the service academies has done just that: provided complete freedom of expression, weakened disciplinary action and eliminated peer pressure and punishment.

When they have brought the academies into line with other institutions, they can reasonably argue for their elimination on the basis that they no longer perform their original mandate.

Barry R. Relinger Georgetown, S.C.

The writer is a member of the academy's Class of 1964.

Many questions must be answered

The initial questions that must be answered are ones such as:

Did the midshipmen in question actually do the things they have been accused of by a single witness on a cruise ship filled with thousands of people of all ages - including many students on spring break - or is this another case of someone arbitrarily deciding the level of fun others are permitted?

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