Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Explosion? Expulsion?

2/C Ring Dance
Originally uploaded by dancingnomad3.
I think I might have missed something by spending four years on the Trinity Quad. Yes, I'm certain of it. And extremely thankful, but that's for another post.

I posted on Tuesday about the expulsion from the Coast Guard Academy of two cadets. Judge Steverson visited my post and commented.

I knew the Judge would visit. And I figured he'd post. But I didn't figure he'd go for the in loco parentis argument. Actually, I hadn't even considered it.

In his own blog, Judge Steverson writes,
Court-martialing a cadet is similar to sending your own son to jail rather than to his room for an infraction of some family rule. No one calls the police when they need to discipline a family member. There is a paternal relationship between the Superintendent and the corps of cadets.
On the one hand, true: I don’t call the police when disciplining one of my children. However, when they go beyond the set of rules which I can properly discipline, would I not hesitate to call the authorities. Rape, murder, mayhem; for these offenses I would likely call the police. Sometimes, parental discipline is not enough.

Now, in the case of Cadets Miller and Schimmel, these two young men are being prosecuted through the civilian courts system. The Academy’s action was purely administrative. While being purely administrative, it was, no matter what anyone might say, punishment.

In the case of Cadet Smith, the actions of the Academy were not administrative in nature. The courts martial of Cadet Webster Smith was, very definitely, judicial in nature.

Perhaps, though, Judge Steverson does have a point: the Academy ought to rely on non-judicial punishment for cadets, and allow (read "persuade") the civil authorities to press forward with an judicial actions. In the case of Cadet Smith, however, I believe some of the alleged incidents occurred on the grounds of the Coast Guard Academy where the civil authorities have no standing. What then?

With the external focus on sexual harassment at the other service academies, I’m sure the administration in New London felt under-the-gun to do something. But, as Judge Steverson would ask, I suspect, did the “doing something” need to include the first general courts martial in the Academy’s history?

I suspect the issues run deeper than this single question. It is telling that this fall, while a high-powered task force was on campus investigating harassment and climate issues, that two cadets would make such bonehead moves as alleged sexual assault and home invasion. For two cadets, even in likely inebriated states, to head down those roads shows a lack of leadership, and I don’t mean cadet leadership. What messages, spoken and unspoken, word and deed, did senior Academy leadership send to the cadet corps?

I have to think that with Rear Admiral Van Sice’s early removal from the Academy, and his ill-timed retirement announcement, that Admiral Allen and Vice Admiral Papp saw smoke coming from the shores of the Thames River. And, while it is clich├ęd, where there’s smoke, there is generally fire.

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