Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cleaning up the yard

Over the last couple of weeks, I received a lot of email about three things going on at the Naval Academy: spice, D1 football blow-back, and whistle-blower outcomes.

I feel sorry that I have not covered them yet, but it just took time to get there. In a way, there really isn't a "if it bleeds it leads" story here - but they are important and deserve to be told. All three, in fact, are really good news. A quick review, shall we?

Seven midshipmen have been expelled from the U.S. Naval Academy for possessing or using "spice," a relatively new recreational drug that has yet to take hold on most other college campuses.
Spice broke above the ambient noise in the Navy a couple of years ago. Everyone knows that it is on par with marijuana. The MIDN decided to play with fire and got burned. Simple. Direct. Clear. As it should be. Humans are humans and adults are adults - treat them as such.

D1 football:
The head of the Naval Academy’s finances stepped down Jan. 14 amid a wide-ranging investigation of how the school used gifts and non-appropriated funds during his 11-year tenure.

Robert Parsons, a retired captain and 1971 academy graduate who served as the academy’s chief financial officer, has been named president of a new college preparatory school in West Palm Beach, Fla., according to a news release.

Parsons was suspended five days without pay after a naval inspector general report, completed in November 2009, found that Parsons had overseen an “unauthorized, off-the-books account” that met the “business definition of a ‘slush fund.’”
A very sad case of "I told you so." We have discussed for years the warping effect of the mad pursuit of D1 football has had on the Academy - turning many aspects of it into nothing better than a garden variety land-grant university. The psychology of some who feel a need to wrap their own self worth into young men playing games has a lot to do with it. It is amazing what some people will sell just to say, "We won!" after a kid's game.

Don't get me wrong - I played football, baseball, and even wrestled in my youth and love me some sports ... but I grew up. This is sad.
It started in April 2007, when Parsons diverted reimbursement for a tailgate party for the 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl Game — which the Midshipmen narrowly lost to the Boston College Eagles — to a newly established Navy Federal Credit Union account, the investigation found. A check for $94,969 seeded the account. It ballooned with two more checks, totaling $200,760, from the Mids’ 2007 and 2008 bowl games.

Parsons spent the money on official tailgaters and expensive gifts. Parsons gave an unspecified number of neckties worth $863 to football coaches.

A Christmas party for the golf association cost $10,003, almost half of which was for gifts purchased from the pro shop and alcohol.
Parsons also defended his actions as necessary to maintaining a winning football team.

With head coach Paul Johnson expected to step down, Parsons said the gifts and parties helped keep assistant coaches from leaving, too. After noting with pride that 10 of the 14 coaches had stayed on after Johnson’s departure, Parsons said the spending was vital to the school’s larger mission.

With a winning team, grades rose, honor violations dropped, and morale soared, Parsons told investigators. “Every aspect of the Naval Academy has improved as result of a winning football program,” Parsons said.
If we issued each football player a 5'4" Hooters girl from Stockholm (or Brazilian life guard named Philip depending) as roommate and EA for all four years we would be able to recruit even better. Why not do that?

Enjoy your new job Shipmate.

Whistle-blower Persecution: Professor Bruce Fleming received a little satisfaction.
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced the resolution of a prohibited personnel practice complaint filed by a federal employee against the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA). The employee, a professor with USNA, alleged that in violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, he was denied an annual merit pay increase because he published newspaper articles criticizing USNA policies. The specific terms of the settlement are required to be kept confidential by agreement of the parties. The parties, however, have expressed their mutual satisfaction with those terms.

OSC’s investigation uncovered evidence indicating that USNA illegally denied the employee a merit pay increase because of his public statements.
While the investigation was ongoing, OSC negotiated an informal settlement of the complaint. Without admitting fault, USNA agreed to the settlement.

Associate Special Counsel William E. Reukauf observed that “no federal employee should fear that he will be penalized on the job for expressing an opinion on controversial matters of public concern.” Mr. Reukauf noted his appreciation for USNA’s cooperation during the investigation and its willingness to resolve the complaint, thus avoiding the possibility of protracted litigation.
This too is good. Point made. Wrong righted.

There are
other indicators out there that good people are working hard to do the right thing.

I pinged in the past on some things going on at USNA because they needed to be discussed. When the new leadership came in, I promised to give them the benefit of the doubt. There is reason to have confidence that the trend lines are going in the right direction. Perfect? No; but neither am I. Trying to do good? From my perspective, yes. Good news.

There is more about cleaning up the mess at Annapolis left by others ... but you will have to check in tomorrow for that. It will be Thursday, you know.

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