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Academy's New Dean Gets Tough on Assaults

July 13, 2006|From the Associated Press

NEW LONDON, Conn. — The first female commandant of cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy pledged a tough stance against campus sexual violence Wednesday after a court-martial in which cadets testified that such issues were not taken seriously.

Such attacks are "just reprehensible, and I do not want to graduate a cadet into the Coast Guard as a junior officer who is a perpetrator of sexual assault," Capt. Judith Keene said in an interview at her new office.

Keene, who was among the first women to graduate from the academy, takes over as the military equivalent of the dean of students at a tumultuous time. She replaces Capt. Douglas Wisniewski, who left for a position in Washington this year when his term as commandant expired.

A senior cadet was convicted of sexual assault and extortion last month in the school's first student court-martial. Witnesses discussed heavy drinking, carousing and a culture in which some female cadets were hesitant to come forward with assault allegations.

That case, along with a former cadet's allegations that the academy mishandled her assault claim and a mother's concerns that her daughter's rape allegation was not adequately addressed, led some in Congress to request a review of the school's policies.

Keene, who was named to the position before any of these issues surfaced, said that although the school's policies were solid, the academy needed to send a consistent message to cadets that sexual assault won't be tolerated.

"They'll not only be hearing it from me and my staff," she said, "I expect them to hear it in their classes. I expect them to hear it from their coaches. I expect them to hear it when they're down in medical."

With about 950 cadets, the school is the smallest U.S. service academy. Women represent about 30% of cadets, compared with less than 20% at the Air Force and Naval academies and about 15% at West Point.

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