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“Academy Justice was Tilted Toward Women: Double Standard in Mid Sex Cases During Rempt Era”

That’s the headline in The Capital , the hometown newspaper for Annapolis, Maryland, the home of the United States Naval Academy.

The Capital had embarked on a three-year odyssey to get public information to answer seemingly simple question: Did the Naval Academy treat men and women fairly in sexual misconduct cases. It took three years and 3,000 pages of documents to partially answer that question. The answer is an unambiguous “No.”

After years of stonewalling, the Naval Academy was forced to relent to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request after Navy lawyers sided with the newspaper:

The Navy Judge Advocate General granted the newspaper’s appeal in September 2008, saying: “First, the USNA has not conducted an adequate search to locate the requested records . . . . Second, the USNA inappropriately withheld the (documents) entirely without conducting a segregation analysis” to see what parts of case files could be released.

Parts of case files began arriving in December 2008, with the most recent batch being received late last month. The documents do not cover sex abuse cases that arose during 2007 and 2008.

When asked for the more recent documents, Carpenter responded, “File another FOIA.”

So what did the officials at the Naval Academy not want the public to know?
In an apparent attempt to curb sexual abuse, the Naval Academy created a double standard that punished male midshipmen harsher than females from 2001 to 2006, according to reams of documents obtained by The Capital .

As revealed in about 3,000 pages of Navy and Naval Academy documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act covering the five-year period, female accusers—and sometimes their witnesses—generally received immunity for conduct violations uncovered during investigations of the alleged sexual abuse.

But male midshipmen accused of sexual abuse, even when the evidence against them was weak, were likely to be dismissed for the same type of offense for which a female mid received immunity, the documents show.

Forgiven offenses typically included underage drinking, drinking in the dorm, binge or “extreme” drinking, possessing a fake ID, having consensual sex in the dorm or being absent from duty without authorization.

As a result, some male midshipmen were driven from the academy for being intoxicated and foolish, while female mids who broke many of the same rules were allowed to continue with their careers.

And this:
Women were to undergo counseling or “remediation training” for offenses such as underage drinking or having consensual sex in Bancroft Hall, the academy dormitory, that surfaced during investigation of sex abuse, but they would be allowed to graduate and receive commissions, [Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Rodney P.] Rempt said.

Men, on the other hand, could be booted out for the same conduct violations, and if they were juniors or seniors, they could be required to repay the government for their educations.

In the cases found within the documents, those assessments ran between $76,000 and $136,000.

Earl Kelly, the author of no less than four articles in Sunday’s Capital lays out the pathetic details, the alcohol abuse, the one-night stands and broken relationships leading to harassment charges, drunken orgies on the yard, crying wolf, judicial procedures stacked against the accused, the sexual harassment case against the star quarterback, and a general atmosphere described by one male mid who told officials that he was leaving the academy because he “couldn’t tolerate the Naval Academy’s lack of morals.” It ain’t a pretty picture.

In what he calls “one classic example of the dangers of alcohol” he tells the story of one “alleged victim of sexual assault” who told academy officials that she and her friends headed on a drinking spree during spring break in Cancun, Mexico. The young woman drank heavily—pre-dinner drinks followed by two daiquiris and several shots which were capped off after dinner with five tequila shots before leaving the club. She later testified “that this was a mistake in judgment.”

Awaking from her drunken stupor at 3:00 AM she found herself in her hotel bed, which she just happened to be sharing with a male Midshipman. He was making certain “sexual advances.” We are told that “The male mid also had been drinking, but the amount was not clear from the record—he said he had consumed a lot. But academy officials said he was merely trying to claim he was intoxicated to cover up his misconduct.”

You would expect that the grown ups at the Naval Academy would bring some sanity to this pathetic situation. Why not just give them both the boot for “conduct unbecoming” and just to make sure the rest of the boys and girls get the message, require them to reimburse taxpayers the cost of their education. But instead here’s what we get from a commissioned naval officer:

“Although (the victim) placed herself in a vulnerable position, the sharing of a hotel bed with a member of the opposite sex does not give implied permission for sexual advances,” the investigating officer concluded in his report.

And we wonder why the boys and girls at the Naval Academy are acting up?

Kelly reports that there is “no record of the female freshman being disciplined, even though academy rules mandate that plebes are never to drink if they are under age 21.” Of course, “the male was charged with four counts of indecent assault in July 2003, and resigned from the academy before the case went to a court-martial.

Not to worry, however. The Naval Academy, in its never-ending quest to ensure that the American public is getting its money’s worth in footing the bill for our future leaders in the Naval service, is addressing the problem: “In late 2007, the academy unveiled the latest version of its training program, “Sexual Harassment & Assault Prevention Education,” or SHAPE, which includes a series of mandatory “gender sensitivity” classes. What do the mids think of this? I suspect that one anonymous mid sums it up quite nicely:

“You can sit there and click PowerPoint slides, death by PowerPoint, all day long,” the anonymous midshipman told a Pentagon task force compiling the 2006-2007 report of gender relations at the service academies. “It’s not going to get through to anyone, especially when it’s the same message over and over. You’re beating a dead horse. It’s not sinking in any further than it already has.”

They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant. We’ll see.

President Obama will be speaking at the Naval Academy commencement this weekend. I’m going to go way out on a limb and predict none of this will be addressed by the President or the media.

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