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Let’s end cadet “ownership” of Service Academy Honor Codes

September 10, 2012

Ever since the first class graduated at the Air Force Academy (my alma mater) most of us have been proud to claim that the Honor Code is “owned by the cadets.” To the extent that this is true, the concept is obviously failing. We now have data from studies done by researcher/historian Fred Malmstrom (USAFA Class of 64) which show that 60% of recent graduates admit that they have committed honor violations while at the Academy. (The percentage rises to 80% if you include toleration.) These statistics are extremely discouraging but probably should not be surprising since similar studies suggest that a cadet committing an honor violation today has a better than 90% chance of staying at the Air Force Academy. No one today believes USAFA would dismiss large numbers of cadets if there were another cheating “scandal.”

Cadets do not “own” the academic system and they do not “own” the military system or the athletic system but they are, nonetheless, required to maintain the standards set by USAFA senior leaders. The same should be true for the Honor Code. We all hope that grads will maintain high standards of honor after graduation, just as we hope they will maintain high academic/military/athletic standards. But allowing the cadets to “own” the Code simply is not working. The administration needs to set high standards in this area and accept the responsibility for enforcing them, just as they do in all the other areas of Academy performance.

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