ANNAPOLIS — Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy are going to be spending a lot more time in mandatory study periods during the academic year and working with leathernecks in the summer.
After a tough year of distracting sexual misconduct cases and a wild Caribbean spring break booze cruise, the academy is reducing liberty time and increasing mandatory study hours with an eye toward better focusing midshipmen on becoming leaders while the country is at war.
“This is not just a college scholarship program,” Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler said in his first meeting with reporters since taking command in June. “The taxpayers have paid money to develop officers here, and it’s my job to ensure we minimize those distractions.”
As a result, the military institution is reinstating mandatory three-hour study time for Sunday through Thursday nights for all classes of the 4,200-student Brigade from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. The rule has applied to first-year students, known as plebes, but it’s being extended to all classes. The study period will also be in effect Friday night for first- and second-year students.
The change means there will be no weeknight liberty for midshipmen, time when they can leave academy grounds. Students in their final year may have a chance to earn limited weeknight liberty for outstanding performance.
In breaking the news to the future officers, Adm. Fowler said he told them about a recent seven-month deployment for the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower being extended to 233 days — with just 15 days in port.
“We’re a nation at war,” Adm. Fowler said. “We’re not just doing short deployments or even six-month deployments. Sometimes they are longer, and our midshipmen need to understand that that’s what their sailors are going through and that’s who they’re going to lead.”
Academy officials also are reviewing summer training programs, with an emphasis on getting midshipmen more exposure with naval operations outside the classroom.
“As we are a nation at war, we do not have the luxury of letting our midshipmen learn about life in the fleet and Marine Corps once they get there,” said Capt. Margaret Klein, commandant of midshipmen, in a statement announcing the changes. “They need to be ready to lead sailors and Marines the day they graduate from this institution.”
Adm. Fowler said that could include more summer cruises on warships and “more leatherneck” work that gets them out with Marines.
“We need to train as we will fight,” Adm. Fowler said.
The new superintendent underscored that the added study time “is not punishment.”
“It’s preparation for the real world,” he said.
The regulations come in the wake of a disappointing year at the academy, where athletes were accused of sexual misconduct, a former medical officer was charged with taping midshipmen having sex, a link was made between an instructor and a prostitution ring, and a group of midshipmen got rowdy on a spring break cruise.
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