NEW LONDON, Conn. - The U.S. Coast Guard Academy has lost its way and is struggling with a climate of distrust and cynicism in which nearly one in four cadets say they would not report classmates who commit sexual assault, a task force reported Friday.
The task force, created last year after the first student court-martial in the academy's 130-year history, said the academy must restore its focus on leadership and character development to create the best officers to safeguard the nation's coast.
Otherwise, the report warned, the academy is in danger of losing the distinct identity that separates it from other colleges.
Of course I'm a biased observer here, so keep that in mind when you read the following.
Our service academies are an important and necessary component for training our future officers. They're necessary, but not sufficient, for providing the nation with trained officers of the highest caliber.
Yes, individual cadets and midshipmen can make mistakes that, while possibly bringing discredit on their academy as a whole, do not point to systemic problems at the school. But if the above report is true, that a fourth of Coast Guard Academy cadets would not report those who commit sexual assaults, then there is a systemic problem there--and part of that problem lies with the officer leadership at the Academy. It's their responsibility to train the cadets, to instill in them the highest values of the uniformed services. Fail at that task, and you've let the entire country down.
Hopefully the cadets themselves can begin to address this shameful problem. If they can't take care of each other--and shielding a possible criminal does not satisfy that description--how can they be trusted to take care of the Coast Guardsmen who will be placed under their so-called leadership?