Scandals shut navy academy for a week
By Hugh Davies in Washington

BESET by scandal, the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has ordered a week-long "stand-down" to force all 4,000 midshipmen to review their standards of conduct and integrity.

Regular duties are to cease while discipline is discussed in the context of the Academy's honour concept: "I will not lie, cheat or steal and will let the whole truth be known."

Adml Charles Larson, the superintendent, said he expected pupils "to be responsible and accountable for their own actions, those of their shipmates and for the environment around them".

The move, unprecedented in the college's 150-year history, came after a string of incidents that have embarrassed the hierarchy. They include theft of exam papers, cheating, drink-driving, drug-taking and sex charges.

A female midshipman was taken from her dormitory bed, dragged to a men's lavatory, handcuffed to a urinal and taunted by midshipmen who took pictures of her.

The institution was 'plagued by a serious morale problem caused by a culture of hypocrisy'

Three other women were allegedly sexually harassed in further incidents. Two officers were forced out of the academy after one was charged with soliciting a prostitute and the other was caught drinking with under-age cheerleaders. This month a midshipman was accused of sexually assaulting four female colleagues. Another is facing a charge of molesting a toddler.

A grand jury has indicted two midshipmen in a car-theft ring. A midshipman has also been convicted of buying LSD from undercover investigators. It emerged that the mind-altering drug was popular at the academy.

Yesterday, two senior midshipmen where charged with attempting to break into a house in Annapolis.

Vietnam veteran James Barry, an academy teacher, said "an ethically corrupting system" was developing.

The institution was "plagued by a serious morale problem caused by a culture of hypocrisy, one that tolerates sexual harassment, favouritism and the covering up of problems", he said.

Capt Tom Jurkowsky, a spokesman for the academy, said: "We're stepping back, and we're trying to figure out what's going on. How can we get back on track? What are we going to do about it?"