Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Waiting for a call of racism in 3, 2, 1 .....

Lucky you folks - we have a "Tuesday Twofer."

One subject - two authors. The first part of the post will be from me, then USNA English Professor Bruce Fleming will follow.

Here's my take. From Earl Kelly in The Capital.
Varsity athletes make up 29 percent of the brigade and commit 47 percent of the honor violations, according to Naval Academy data.

Women make up 20 percent of the brigade and commit 23 percent of the violations.

Whites constitute 76 percent of the brigade and commit 55 percent of the violations, while African-Americans make up 5 percent of the brigade and commit 19 percent of the violations, according to Naval Academy data. Asians and Hispanics make up 5 percent and 10 percent of the brigade, respectively, and commit 6 percent and 14 percent of the honor violations, respectively.

Midshipmen who serve in the military before coming to the academy, along with mids who attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School before being admitted, commit 37 percent of the violations, even though they make up 24 percent of the brigade.
In this is one of the worst excuses for honor violations I have ever heard;
(Naval Academy Commandant of Midshipmen Capt. Matthew) Klunder said time pressures, not deep character flaws, are behind most violations.

"It is very infrequent I see a malicious, dishonorable act," he said. "Most often it goes something like this: 'Exams are coming up, I'm juggling a million balls, I have six courses. ... I didn't plan well, I've got to do something.' Almost like clockwork, it's mismanagement of time ... nine out of 10 times."

Klunder said varsity athletes, in particular, have so many demands on them, they are more likely than other students to run into trouble.

"Those midshipmen who are in hugely pressured situations where their time is most severe, that is where most of the (violations) come from," he said. "Athletes don't have a lot of time."
Captain Klunder. Brother. Shipmate. Please.

If you think Annapolis is a pressure cooker - what will they do in the Fleet? That excuse is an unfair smear to those athletes who do it right. The problem isn't athletics or athletes- the problem is with the individual - and perhaps the exceptions we make to bring athletes into the Academy - simply for their athletic abilities.

Anyway, I thought we try to create a "no excuses" environment? Why are we making up excuses for them? How do we inculcate personal responsibility when we teach pointing fingers to inanimate objects as causes?

What are we feeding our seed corn?

Sigh. The vast majority of MIDN who are doing the right thing the right way deserve better - and deserve not to have the collective reputation of their institution be degraded by excuses.

Professor Fleming - over to you
The percentages wrung at the expense of so much FOIA effort from the clearly unwilling Academy (which, see Mr. Kelly's article, were given in a shambled and unhelpful a state and manner as possible--like the data on his earlier article on the tilt of Academy "justice" toward women) should be unsurprising to someone who understands how the recruiting system works for what I call "set-asides."

Set-asides are the categories that commit more than their share of honor violations: recruited athletes, racial minorities, and priors. What all have in common, to repeat the facts the Academy continues to deny in public (remember how long the Army denied that Pat Tilman's death was due to friendly fire?), is that these groups are let in via a fast track over a radically lowered bar: direct-admitted with minimal standards far below those of competitive white candidates.

These are recruited midshipmen, recruited because of specific qualities unrelated to smarts, or leadership, or even general athletics (many of the football players are overweight and are given exemptions). In guaaranteeing them their seats at Navy, we don't ask that they do or be anything (down to a certain level--even we have our minima) other than a football player, or a prior, or non-white. Not: smart (so far as grades and scores show this--and what else does?). Not: good leaders (we don't measure this for recruits). Certainly not: motivated to come to Navy.

Again: the groups with disproportionately high honor violations (and they are the ones found "in violation"--see below) are the recruited groups not held to our usual minimum standards. And they don't even have to want to come to Navy until we convince them they should. We go after them, not they after us.

We do "outreach" for minority students who had never thought of "serving" (as the Superintendent puts it in his Alumni Letter) at Annapolis: we convince them not only to consider Navy, but to accept our offer of admission. Non-white students are given a list of black high school seniors to cold-call, to convince them to come: pretty please, come to us! Meanwhile, a white kid who has dreamed of Navy since he was in the seventh grade, takes the right courses to prepare him- (or her-)self, pushes him- or herself to be a stud athletically, is rejected to free up the place.

Ditto athletes: because of the professionalization of college athletics in the last decades, we're competing with civilian schools to get kids to come to us. It's not an evident choice, in spite of what USNA boosters think. The really good ones won't come, because it's difficult to go pro after (not impossible). There's that service commitment at the end, and the restrictions we place even on athletes (they get out of a lot of them, which tends to feed what even football players have admitted to me is their entitlement mentality). If we hire somebody because he or she can play some sort of ball (or run, or sail), it's a lucky strike extra if that person puts Navy first, rather than the sport. Why should they?

As for priors, I love the old men and women, especially those divers or combat Marines we occasionally get. But that's not the average prior: the average prior was lured into Navy nuke school by being told that the chances of walking into Annapolis were good, spends less than a year in uniform, and despite poor grades and no leadership, is given a seat at Annapolis.

The competitive students, by contrast, are held to a high overall standard, and they come after us. They usually know about Navy, and want it. They're prepared, and committed. Of course they're going to have fewer honor violations.

So the pattern is clear: recruited direct-admit lower-standard groups are maxing out the honor system, which refuses to get rid of them. All mids enjoy room, board, and what potentially is a first-rate education, all at taxpayer expense. We turned down (we say) ten people for each one we admit, people who might well have given their eye teeth to come. But once we get the recruits, we're darned if we're going to boot them: the alumni love the football team, and the minorities have to make it to the officer corps so the Superintentent and CNO can look progressive, rather than like the 1968-era dinosaurs they really are.

In sum: our policy of "putting diversity first" and our insistence on having our football team play Ohio State and Notre Dame means we'll do anything to get the non-whites and the big boys. And then we'll do anything to keep them.

By the way, our "we forgive everything if you're an athlete/non-white/prior" means we'll scoop up other odd fish in the net too. I've had autistic students, bipolar students, students with other learning disabilities that were behind their low GPAs in high school: if they'd been white, they'd never have gotten in.

We've made a perfect storm for ourselves with the groups we recruit too: the really super ball players (this is a generalization; there are exceptions) won't typically come to us, for above reasons. The really stellar minority kids won't tend to either (a generalization again): why should they when they'll get offers from Ivies? Plus we are apparently aiming at 40% minority and Division I supremacy: we want these more and are getting fewer. So we're doing anything it takes. To solve the problem we should accept playing schools like, yes, the Ivies, in football, and accept that the non-white percentage of the service academies is not going to be the exact mirror of the non-white percentage of the enlisted corps--it seems to be only the dinosaurs who think this is a problem.

Meanwhile, we've ruined Annapolis. Our obsession with recruiting based on officer-neutral (skin color) or officer-negative (the entitlement mentality of some big sports players) criteria has rotted the honor system. I hear this daily from disillusioned midshipmen: they can tell dozens of stories of minority students and/or ballplayers with multiple honor offenses whom the system won't even try, much less convict.

Some, as I say, aren't even found technically "in violation." Last year I put up the clearest case of plagiarism I've ever seen in 22 years (the student turned in a paper I hadn't even assigned, in an older version he couldn't have known about from the syllabus)--a minority athlete. I was told I didn't have to be at the adjudication; I couldn't in any case because that was my time to get my boys off a school bus. Then they changed the date and time at the last minute to another time I couldn't make: I was told that was not a problem. Yet my absence was precisely the reason given (after my Division Director, the senior US Marine on the Yard, went to bat for me), for the fact that the student was found "not in violation," i.e. innocent: a professor's word was brushed aside by midshipmen taking their guidance from officers. And, I heard, Professor Fleming "didn't even care enough to show up." Even if I had, it's clear to me the administration was unwilling even to find guilty someone a professor could show was guilty. Sure, even I can be wrong: then convene a group of three other professors to see if Fleming knows what plagiarism is and if this constitutes it. (If it's not, I might as well resign right now.) I saw this midshipman in the hall the other day. He gave me a smirk. That's what's going to join the fleet.

If we make diversity our "number one priority" and recruit priors with no particularly good qualities, and insist on competing with civilian schools whose students are not going to be officers in the Navy and Marine Corps (most recruited ballplayers even at major schools don't even graduate), our honor system will be the first casaulty, as Mr. Kelly's figures show. We are told that the emphasis now is on "remediation, not separation." In fact, it's retention, graduation and commissioning of sub-pa material at any cost. Then comes the staggering lie that we don't have "two-track admissions." Recruiting our three categories is two-track admissions. Or do you have a better term for it?

It's writing things like this that cost me my merit pay steps for last year, incidentally: the newly-arrived Dean, I'm sure under orders from our Superintendent, admits to having gone out of his way to deny me the raise my department voted for me so as to make clear that saying things like this had to stop. (Yes, actions like his are illegall, and I've made a whistleblower protest.) Somehow it hasn't stopped.

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