The Navy's new chief of operations has ordered a sweeping investigation of the U.S. Naval Academy in response to other recent probes that have found sexual harassment and inequities in the institution's venerable honor code and disciplinary systems, officials said yesterday.
Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, after less than three weeks at the helm of the Navy, added his own review to the growing list of investigations at the troubled Annapolis academy, which was hit by a rash of scandals last school term.
Kelso's order followed a Navy inspector general's report that surveyed midshipmen and found that more than half of the students believe the honor system has been corrupted by favoritism. In addition, more than half of the women and more than one-third of the men surveyed said they believe sexual harassment is a serious problem at the academy, according to officials familiar with the study.
The inspector general, whose report has not been officially released, was ordered to investigate the academy after a hazing incident in which 19-year-old Gwen M. Dreyer was chained to a urinal in a men's room before a jeering crowd of her male classmates. Dreyer quit the academy, saying, "I hope girls coming in now don't have to deal with what I had to."
"There are clearly some problems at the academy," said one Navy official. "But the naval academy is a solid institution. It's not about to blow up in our face.
Kelso has asked a special panel of officers, headed by the Navy's manpower and personnel chief, Rear Adm. Michael Boorda, to conduct a broader review of some of the academy's oldest internal institutions, according to officials.
The panel will investigate the academy's honor and conduct system, in which midshipmen have responsibility for judging the guilt or innocence of their peers on allegations of infractions as well as the authority to make recommendations about whether a student should be dismissed from school. Investigators also will examine the academy policy of allowing some ex-midshipmen to be readmitted following dismissal.
The five-member board of officers is drawing from the recommendations of the inspector general's report and from the review by an advisory panel, composed primarily of academy faculty members, on women's issues.
A subcommittee of the academy's Board of Visitors is conducting a parallel investigation, which the academy superintendent, Rear Adm. Virgil L. Hill Jr., ordered in May after publicity about the Dreyer incident. The panel expects to release its findings sometime this summer, according to Arthur B. Culvahouse, who is heading the probe.
The special committee, whose members include Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Helen Delich Bentley (R-Md.), has received a copy of the inspector general's report as well as an internal academy study on the integration of women into the student body, Culvahouse said. The documents will be used in preparing the committee's final report, he said.
The General Accounting Office recently launched its own investigation at the request of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House Armed Services Committee and several members of Congress also have been scrutinizing academy procedures and problems since May.
Staff writer Lisa Leff contributed to this report.