- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2005

LEXINGTON, Va. (AP) — Virginia Military Institute cadets who dressed as Nazis and drag queens for a Halloween event received punishments ranging from confinement to their barracks to writing essays.

Photographs of the costumed cadets were posted on the Internet and sparked numerous message board debates in January about intolerance, good taste and political correctness. In total, 12 cadets were punished for their actions, which included one depicting a starving African.

Following the recommendation of a student disciplinary committee, five upperclassmen received a range of discipline.

They included writing 1,000-word papers about the detrimental effect their actions had on VMI; confinement to barracks for two weeks when not attending to academic or other official duties; and marching 25 penalty tours of 50 minutes each while carrying a rifle. The upperclassmen include a cadet who took the pictures and posted them on the Internet.

Seven freshmen “rats” received a lecture from cadet leaders. They also attended mandatory civility training with all other freshmen conducted by the cadet leadership.

“These penalties are appropriate for the behavior displayed by the cadets involved,” VMI’s superintendent, retired Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, said in a statement posted on the school’s Web site (www.vmi.edu).

The punishments were announced Thursday.

“While this incident is regrettable, it has gained the attention of the cadets,” Gen. Peay said. “We are taking advantage of this opportunity to reinforce the principles of respect and civility that our cadets must learn if they are to become truly effective leaders.”

The underclassmen received lesser punishment because of the pressure the VMI culture can put upon them to assimilate, VMI spokesman Stewart MacInnis said.

He added, however, “Nobody was forced to do anything.”

VMI officials learned about the costumes worn at the officially sanctioned event when an Internet user alerted them to photos of the party posted on an online message board.

Mr. MacInnis said the adult officer in charge of barracks the night of the party saw the Nazi uniforms and ordered them removed right away, but he did not see the other costumes. He didn’t know pictures had been taken.

One picture showed three men dressed as Nazis giving the Nazi salute. Two are wearing swastika armbands. One has a small Hitler-style mustache.

Another photo shows two men in tiaras, wings and eye shadow. Both are wearing underpants and tank tops that read, “I [heart] a man in uniform.”

There is also a picture of a man in a loincloth wearing dark makeup, and one of a man with a bull’s-eye drawn on the rear of his pants.

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