Honor at the U.S. Naval Academy Turned Upside Down


(Meal time at Annapolis requires strict discipline)

How the Naval Academy handled an accusation of an alleged honor violation by a Black first team football player when he had a positive drug test raises some serious questions. Despite recommendations, he was not dismissed for a marijuana violation. A Navy slotback, was the center of a controversy that divided midshipmen and professors at the academy. The academy superintendent,has decided to allow him to remain at the school even though he tested positive for marijuana. The midshipman failed a random drug test administered by the academy.

front gate USNA 1960

His company officer and the Commandant of midshipmen recommended that he be dismissed from the academy. The Academy Superintendent decided against separation and instead punished him with 21 days of restriction and 100 demerits. According to the Navy Military Personnel Manual, the service has a "zero tolerance" policy for drug use. Any academy or Navy service member suspected of drug use is to be administratively processed for separation. But there is wiggle room in the policy that allows the commanding officer to consider extenuating circumstances. The Navy's illegal drug policy requires the commander to ascertain if a service member knowingly consumed an illegal drug.This aspect is one of several issues that must be established for the commander to determine if the Navy's drug use policy was violated.

(Rigid discipline is expected at the Academy)

The midshipman told academy officials he did not knowingly smoke marijuana, according to multiple sources . He said he accidentally smoked it after being passed a cigar he didn't know contained the drug. A witness provided a statement supporting the defense. The Navy Military Personnel Manual indicates if the commanding officer determines the urinalysis result was caused by administrative errors or the drug use was not wrongful because of a prescribed medication, or unknowing ingestion, then the service member shall not be identified as a drug abuser and the positive urinalysis is not a drug abuse incident.

(Instruction to plebes by an upperclassman at the Academy develops character)

Several midshipmen and others at the academy were angered by the decision and one said the result was a double standard involving standout athletes at the academy. The reaction of the brigade to this decision was 100 percent negative some said. Others said this athlete had accumulated multiple honors violations prior to the drug use incident which made him a repeat offender. Some questioned the academy's apparent relaxation of the Honor Concept, and said illicit drug use in the 1960s would have resulted in automatic expulsion with no questions asked.

(All midshipmen take the Oath of Office and are bound by strict rules of conduct)

Yes, times have changed, but some sanctimonious naval officers and midshipmen really believe taking a puff on a cigar and learning it was marijuana qualifies for character assassination, dismissal, and the end of a career while some states and countries recognize marijuana is much milder than the alcohol that runs through the veins of  pompous and self-righteous windbags. Sure discipline is important and violating rules have consequences, especially at the Academy. We had a plebe get miserably drunk and piss on a first classman plebe year in 1960. He received 100 demerits. What is the real difference? Somehow the zero tolerance policy has been elevated to an honor violation? Under whose morality does that make sense? Had he tortured a suspect, massacred any of the unarmed 500 in My Lai including women, grandfathers, children and yes babies, he would have been treated quite differently by Richard Nixon as Lt. Calley was: “In the end, Charlie Company’s commanding officer, Lt. Calley was the only one to be convicted. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. Within three days he was out of prison, pending appeal, on the personal instructions of President Richard Nixon.

Bancroft Hall Mishipman in Whites parading to meal

He spent the next three years under house arrest at Fort Benning in Georgia. Freed on bail in 1974 his sentence was then cut to 10 years. Later that year he was paroled after completing one third of his sentence" according to historical sources. Capt Medina ordered the operation and dodged guilt somehow. Whose morality prevails? What is the proper punishment for sending men to war to risk their lives on a lie? The Gulf of Tonkin and the invasion of Iraq account for more than 60,000 American deaths and until Nixon was caught trying to attack his accuser credibility with psychiatric records he sent burglars to purloin (Daniel Ellsberg with the Pentagon Papers), he continued to act sanctimoniously about the peace marchers and labeled them, as did Agnew"effete snobs" out to destroy America with their pot smoking and rowdy behavior.

Bancroft Hall USNA 1960

Why is Annapolis the center of such controversy when no college on the planet would dare treat a student that way. Yes discipline at the academy is expected to be harsh to weed out the undesirable. However, we all know G. I.'s smoked  dope, did heroin, and crack, and abused pain killers (meth, etc.). Alcohol abuse is rampant. The Superintendent did a reasonable thing by not jumping to conclusions, ordering an investigation, and imposing 100 demerits to enforce the no tolerance rule and make the point this is not tolerable conduct. The Superintendent acted like a man with life experience rather than a hanging judge that would accept this misconduct as if it were an intentional and malicious act like stealing. To charge him more than that would require a finding that he lied during the investigation. That is an honor violation we all recognize. Meanwhile these opinions on how bad the Academy has become usually start with moaning over the relaxation of plebe year and the introduction of women who wear different uniforms, caps, etc and of course always complain about sexual harassment! Didn't they hear about the gauntlet the women had to run? We naval officers know how to treat a lady! OK it was just an aberration. Ask most any naval aviator. The recent investigation into sexual harassment uncovered 26,000 cases mostly male on male. How does that conduct measure up for the fleet?

Naval Academy with chapel in Middle

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This entry was posted in Miscellaneous, Non-Fiction, Pictures, Writings and tagged , , , , , by Daniel C. Lavery. Bookmark the permalink.

About Daniel C. Lavery

Dan’s writing shows his transformation from a child to an athlete and a Duke pre-ministerial student where he began to question ancient and arbitrary dogma. He graduated from Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship to Vietnam, fell in love, turned peace activist and a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, "All the Difference," describes the experiences, some humorous and others deadly, that changed his consciousness from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice against some of the most powerful forces in America.

One thought on “Honor at the U.S. Naval Academy Turned Upside Down

  1. Zero tolerance…except when it’s not or how to enjoin doublespeak, privilege for the few and undermine justice. It’s only by coincidence that laws reflect justice. So the academy makes excuses and exonerates the star athlete..oK, that’s their choice but they cannot have it both ways. They have dispensed with their “honor” system…whatever that means now.

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