The military is different from civilian life. Officers in the course of their careers face a very real prospect of being forced to make life-or-death decisions, including decisions to sacrifice lives including their own, intentionally. Officers must be prepared to follow orders at any cost. And the word, the testimony, of an officer must be absolutely reliable.
The service academies are different from ordinary colleges. College students, in general, are having the time of their lives, partying, dating, experimenting with drugs, while service academy cadets are living monastic lives regulated by iron discipline.
A military officer’s career involves great responsibility and is held exceptionally in honor. Cadets traditionally pay a very serious four-year price for entry into the profession of arms.
There have in the past, on infrequent occasions, been service academy scandals, incidents of cadets cheating on exams and the like. Read about them in the newspapers, we civilians have invariably shuddered and experienced a sense of pity at the rigor and mercilessness of the service academies’ honor code. Similar behavior would almost certainly have gone utterly undetected at our own elite schools and, even had someone been caught, his punishment would most likely have been less severe.
Apparently, now, all that is over with. The famous West Point Honor Code is now just empty rhetoric.
There’s been a new West Point cheating scandal involving 73 cadets and a math test. Most of the guilty parties are described as athletes. The news accounts features the recognizable pause-and-throat-clearing before the code word. “Athletes” here is obviously the equivalent of “teens” in current news stories of looting and violent urban crime. Athletes means minority beneficiaries of affirmative action admission.
In past incidents, being detected cheating meant doom. Cheaters were expelled, period. Not today. Not for “athletes.” 55 of the guilty parties will be receiving “rehabilitation.”
John Hinderaker explains what has happened.
Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, the superintendent at West Point, offered a guarded explanation in a memo to the faculty. He said the Academy’s honor code “has resulted in an inequitable application of consequences and developmental opportunities for select groups of cadets.”
But what is “inequitable” about expelling all cadets caught cheating on an exam? The honor code applies to all cadets regardless of “class.” The past practice of expelling violators applies equally to all cheaters regardless of “class.” This is a classic neutral rule.
Clearly, Williams is concerned that application of the neutral rule has a “disparate impact” on particular subgroups of cadets. That’s why he’s departing from past practice.
Williams didn’t specify which groups of cadets he’s talking about. Conceivably he was talking about athletes. Fifty-five of the accused cheaters play sports for West Point. Nearly half of that group is on the football team.
However, I doubt that athletes are the main “select group” Williams is concerned about. I suspect that the primary concern of Williams is with the impact of enforcing the honor code on Black cadets. I can’t say this for certain. It’s not even certain that a disproportionate number of the cheaters are Black.
But there are sound reasons to believe that Williams, who is Black, had race in mind when he decided not to expel the cheating cadets. Rod Dreher explains the grounds for this suspicion in a post for The American Conservative.
He points out that when someone talks about “equity” these days in the context of unequal outcomes, he is usually talking about race. As Dreher says, “if [Williams] is not talking about race here, then what is he talking about?” Equity for football players? That would be a new one.
The notion that there’s inequity when neutral rules adversely affect Blacks in disproportionate numbers is a key element of “critical race theory.” And critical race theory has spread to West Point.
Gramsci’s Long March Through the Institutions has even marched right through West Point.