ANNAPOLIS, MAY 28 -- About 30 members of the National Organization for Women picketed outside the main gates of the U.S. Naval Academy tonight to protest a prank by male midshipmen that led to the resignation of one of their female classmates.
Carrying signs reading "Expel Sexist Middies and Handcuff the Lying Admiral" and "Gentleman, Officers and Thugs," the protesters said they were outraged at the treatment of Gwen M. Dreyer, 19, and other reports of sexual harassment that have surfaced here in recent weeks.
Dreyer was handcuffed to a urinal by some male classmates in what has been described as a spirited prank gone awry.
"We have people calling us and saying, 'This is terrible, what are you going to do?' and so we want the administration to know we aren't going away," said Katrina Hopkins, president of Maryland NOW.
Two midshipmen were given demerits and month-long leave restrictions as punishment in the Dreyer case, and six more received letters of reprimand. The protesters said, however, that they are dissatisfied with what they said was a lackadaisical response to the incident by the academy.
"I know these men have worked hard, but so has Gwen Dreyer, and she has been forced to give up her career," said Jean Kolb, president of the Anne Arundel County chapter of NOW. "I feel they should be prevented from graduating, or at the least forced to undergo an extra year of sensitivity training."
The hour-long demonstration was meant to coincide with the start of a formal ball honoring midshipmen who are graduating on Wednesday.
With the streets filled with uniformed students and their families, the presence of the protesters during what is supposed to be a happy time in Annapolis led to several sidewalk confrontations.
A number of midshipmen, including several women, gathered under the glare of television cameras and implored the protesters not to judge their school by civilian standards of conduct.
They said that while they did not condone what happened to Dreyer, their training is supposed to be both physically and mentally demanding.
"There is no way you have of knowing the truth, and if you don't know what the norm is . . . you are doing a lot of damage," 2nd Class Midshipman Lisa Bachman told the group.
"We have to go to school here and we are not trying to make a public scene," said another midshipman. "You are protesting something that we believe in."
But the protesters were not moved, responding that they found much of what occurred at the academy to be distasteful.
"A person having to ask to use their bodily functions is an outrage. I don't want my tax dollars going for that," Kolb said.
As the demonstration was breaking up, however, the conversation took on a more conciliatory tone, with both sides expressing the hope that investigations by the Navy and two congressional committees will lead to changes.