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Cadets Follow Codes Less as Time Elapses

Survey finds freshmen at Air Force Academy are more likely to report violations like assault.

September 30, 2003|From Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A survey of Air Force Academy cadets released Monday found that they were less likely to follow the honor code against lying, cheating and stealing the longer they were at school.

The survey also found that 38% of cadets under age 21 had reported drinking alcohol since arriving on campus this year. And 52% of seniors said they drank liquor in their dormitories at least once.

Col. Debra Gray, the new vice commandant in charge of cadet training, said the results had commanders reviewing the entire academic process.

"We may have to look outside the box for ways to educate," she said.

The survey, which is done periodically at the academy, is under much more scrutiny this year because of the academy's sexual assault scandal. At least 142 women have come forward to report assaults, and many said they faced retribution from their superiors when they did.

Unlike previous surveys, cadets were given an hour during class to fill out the questionnaire instead of being told to fill it out in their spare time. The surveys were done in paper and pencil; past surveys had been done electronically, creating concern that respondents could be identified.

About 86% of the student body -- 3,554 cadets -- responded in the latest survey, much higher than the 1,000 to 1,200 surveys completed in the past.

The results, however, were dismaying.

According to the survey, between 80% and 90% of freshmen said that if they saw someone breaking academy rules -- drinking alcohol, violating the dress code or similar infractions -- they would bring it to the cadet's attention. Among the senior class, that number dropped to 70% to 80%. Precise numbers were not provided.

When asked if they saw someone violating the honor code, about 90% of freshmen said they would bring it up. For seniors, it was about 80%.

"I think being at an institution for so long can make you cynical," said Erin Hannon, a sophomore cadet from Chicago. "Maybe they see others break the rules and they think it's OK, like at any other college."

Commanders didn't have an answer for the results.

"Data suggests cadets come in more idealistic, then there is some dynamic that occurs that makes them less likely to uphold standards," Gray said. She said commanders are bringing in additional staff to patrol dormitories to control drinking.

As for sexual assault, the survey found, only 10% of female sophomores said they would report an attack. About 20% of juniors and seniors said they would report an attack, and 35% of freshmen.

Of the women who said they would not report an assault, 41% said it was because of the possibility of incrimination in other rules violations, 36% said they feared being ostracized and 31% said they would not be believed.

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