LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘Owning’ honor code not working

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Ever since the first class graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy (my alma mater), most of us have been proud to claim that the honor code is “owned by the cadets.” While they may own it, they obviously are failing to follow it.

We now have data from studies done by researcher-historian Fred Malmstrom (class of 1964) that show that 60 percent of recent graduates admit they have committed honor violations while at the academy. (The percentage rises to 80 percent if you include cases in which cadets tolerate violations by others.) These statistics are extremely discouraging but probably should not be surprising because similar studies suggest that a cadet committing an honor-code violation today has a better than 90 percent chance of staying at the Air Force Academy. No one today believes the academy 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 nonetheless are required to maintain the standards set by academy senior leaders. The same should be true for the honor code. We all hope graduates will maintain high standards of honor after graduation, just as we hope they will maintain high academic, military and athletic standards.

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 set and uphold standards in all other areas of academy performance.


U.S. Air Force (retired)


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