"Drinking culture" suspected at naval academy

An enormous amount of media attention is currently fixed on the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, the result of shocking allegations of rape among several of the academy’s midshipmen. According to the allegations, three male midshipmen sexually assaulted a female midshipman during an alcohol-fueled party at an off-campus rental house. Though the courts are currently working to sort out the events of the evening, some commentators are wondering how the situation could have arisen in the first place.

In the midst of these allegations, many parents are concerned with what critics are calling a “drinking culture” at the prestigious academy. In particular, some wonder if the policies of the college itself contribute to underage drinking, binge drinking and out-of-control parties.

The U.S. Naval Academy has very strict rules against underage drinking, prohibiting all freshmen from drinking. Alcohol is also forbidden in the dormitories, and it is tightly controlled everywhere on campus. All midshipmen can be subjected to random breathalyzer tests.

Despite these tight controls, binge drinking still occurs off campus, during the midshipmen’s rare moments of freedom. In particular, groups of students frequently rent off campus housing for a night and throw lavish parties. According to one professor at the academy, this is partly a reaction against the strict controls that the school has in place. “There is a ‘get back at the man’ mentality,” he says.

Indeed, reports suggest that midshipmen, aware that other college students have far more freedom to drink and throw parties, attempt to “make up for lost time” on their free weekends and during the summer. This can lead to dangerous behavior, such as underage drinking and alcohol-related violence, both of which are crimes that can put a serious dent in a student’s future prospects. Apart from the disciplinary action automatically applied by the school, a misdemeanor for underage possession of alcohol can result in heavy fines and a permanent black mark on one’s criminal record.

The U.S. Naval Academy has condemned heavy drinking among its midshipmen, stating that it does not reflect the values it expects to see in future naval officers. Still, it remains to be seen whether any institutional changes will take place as a result of the current sexual assault trial.

Source: The Daily Herald, “Rape hearing casts light on Naval Academy’s culture” No Author Given, Sep. 08, 2013

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