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Posted at 5:55 PM ET, 01/31/2011

Report: Naval Academy favors minorities, athletes

By Daniel de Vise

Updated at noon Tuesday with comments from Naval Academy.

The Annapolis Capital newspaper on Sunday published a significant investigative piece on admissions at the U.S. Naval Academy, adding new voices and fresh statistics to the ongoing debate over whether the service academy routinely lowers its exacting entry standards for minority applicants and athletes.

A large group of critics, unofficially led by English Professor Bruce Fleming, contend the academy operates a two-tiered admission system. Here's how I described it in a 2009 story:

To win the admissions board's approval, Fleming said (describing his own experience on that board), a white applicant had to present SAT section scores higher than 600 (out of 800); a transcript of A's and B's; and a strong background of leadership in sports and student life, reflected in a fivefour-digit score called the whole-person multiplier multiple.

Black and Hispanic students were routinely admitted with SAT scores in the 500s; with B's and C's; and lower whole-person multipliers, Fleming said in the 2009 account. The same lower standards apply to athletes.

Academy spokesman Cmdr. Joe Carpenter said in response that "since 2004 there has been no "standard cut-off" or minimum SAT for anyone, including white non-athletes or any other group."

The Capital reviewed academy records and found that the school admits students with SAT section scores as low as 370, although its standard cutoff for white non-athletes is 600.

"The unfairness is absolutely real," a former admission board member told the Capital, one of several the paper quoted anonymously.

Carpenter, speaking for the academy, said it was important to distinguish between the characterizations of Fleming and some other former members of the admission board and the Capital's reporting, which is based on comparatively recent data.

"Prof Fleming was on the admissions board 7+ years ago," Carpenter wrote. "The Capital's SAT analysis was for recently admitted classes - those admitted after Fleming's experience on the board. I make these two points for these reasons: Since his experience, there's been the 2003 Supreme Court rulings and periodic internal Navy legal analysis of our admissions process to ensure compliance with the law and Title 10. What Prof. Fleming, and anonymous sources (unknown as to when they were allegedly on the admissions board) may or may not have seen may not match the current and more recent admissions boards proceedings (those analyzed by Kelly's article), and is not reflective of USNA's more recent de-emphasis of SATs throughout USNA's admissions decisions. Without noting the two timeframes, I would caution against drawing direct parallels."

The Capital says the academy uses its Naval Academy Preparatory School, or NAPS, as a back-door admissions pathway for "borderline" students. The prep school is designed as a one-year catch-up program for students with lower test scores and grades or from schools with weak programs, a routine that was common among graduates of rural high schools in earlier generations.

The prep school supplies between one-fifth and one-fourth of each year's entering class at the academy, according to the Capital. Nearly everyone from the prep program gains admission to the academyahead of everyone else.

"During a recent two-year period, NAPS grads were arriving at the Naval Academy so poorly prepared for college-level work, the Naval Academy superintendent relieved the officer in charge of the prep school. Still, these Napsters were found to be fully qualified and were admitted to the academy, while other qualified students were turned away," writer Earl Kelly reports.

The 300-student NAPS class of 2011 included 190 minority students and 110 recruited athletes, according to records obtained by the Capital.

More stats: "For the Naval Academy Classes of 2009-2013, 312 African Americans entered the Naval Academy, 180 (58 percent) of whom came through NAPS, according to documents obtained under FOIA."

Among whites, by contrast, "521 of the 4,101 admitted to the academy (13 percent) entered through NAPS," the Capital wrote.

More stats:

"Of the 155 football players listed on Navy's 2010 roster, 86 (55 percent) attended NAPS, according to the school's sports Web page."

"Forty of Navy's 60 current male lacrosse players (67 percent) attended NAPS, even though many graduated from some of the country's most prestigious private schools including, locally, St. Mary's High School and Severn School, and St. Albans School in Washington, D.C."

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By Daniel de Vise  | January 31, 2011; 5:55 PM ET
Categories:  Access, Admissions, Athletics  | Tags:  Annapolis Capital Naval Academy, Bruce Fleming Naval Academy, Naval Academy NAPS, Naval Academy admissions, USNA Bruce Fleming, USNA admissions  
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So what?

Posted by: milfordone | January 31, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

milfordone wrote: So what?

So what? These young men and women are slated to become leaders within the military as well as the guardians of our nation. If you don't care about their ability to uphold those obligations, why not move to Mexico - I'm sure you'll appreciate the chaos and lawlessness there.

Posted by: ProfessorPeabody | January 31, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Of course the standards have to be considerably lowered for minorities, affirmative action at its best and they will go on to lead our troops...

Posted by: mark0004 | January 31, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

The only thing surprising is that WAPO would print it.

Posted by: cr10 | January 31, 2011 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Wonder of wonders...jocks and "the disadvantaged" get free passes to one of the classiest schools in the Country. Non athlete white men and women get the shaft...let's hear it for equal rights!

Time to get back to academics, not "feel good" policies.

Posted by: MoonDoggie | January 31, 2011 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Two quick points as to why readers ought to be outraged:
1) Each USNA education is entirely taxpayer-funded. The cost of sending an officer candidate to a service academy is four to six times that of sending an officer candidate through NROTC. While these academies remain the best option for developing future leaders, each entering candidate should also be treated as a substantial financial investment.
2) At the risk of sounding melodramtic, these future officers will ultimately be tasked to lead troops in fighting and winning our nation's wars. To willfully have unqualified officers assume the incredible responsibility of combat is simply criminal.

Posted by: perrywedgewood | January 31, 2011 9:33 PM | Report abuse

better to have unqualified officers than ideological (left-wing liberals) and gay officers.....

Posted by: Rockvillers | January 31, 2011 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Are the SAT's really the best indicator for leadership potential?
Isn't a good thing to train an officer's corps that will resemble the demographics on the enlisted corps?

I think the Navy has been at this a while and may look at their recruiting process a little different than other universities.

Posted by: gdmiller16 | January 31, 2011 10:22 PM | Report abuse

I know an awful lot of military personnel -- as well as civilians -- who are quick to acknowledge that book smarts aren't the only thing that leaders need.

It's not stunning that athletes and minorities have an easier road to admission. It's part of the price the nation pays to have a diverse military and a military with individuals with athletic skills. Is that price too high? I don't think so, because getting in is only part of the equation; staying in and demonstrating the skills to prepare, fight, and lead are a bigger part of it.

Posted by: drrico | February 1, 2011 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Hmm...then I wondered what happened to my niece, an African-American NJROTC student with a 4.2GPA and a 760 SAT score at the top of her class who can't get an appointment...

Posted by: walter17 | February 1, 2011 9:10 AM | Report abuse

It's just typical of affirmative action since the 70s. White males and females get the shaft and minorities get the free ride. It might have been fair for a while, but it doesn't make any sense now.

Posted by: steven7753 | February 1, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Please, not the Poor White Man getting the worst of the deal, line again. If you have noticed, the Naval Academy is still mostly white and I would guess the the Lacrosse team is too. Also, as some one that was in the military over 20 years, trust me, the BOOK SMART person, was not the best leader. I'm sure on your job, the person out of college, wasnt always the best boss.

Posted by: | February 1, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

My concern is more along the lines of will these students be expelled for poor performance while attending the school? Or, will they be codeled and "assisted" through graduation. I would also like to know what majors these NAPS students are entering. Athletes have always had a pass at all schools.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 1, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Rockvillers: grow up. Didn't take long for you to make this political. By the way, there are plenty of "liberals" and gay folks serving. I guess you couldn't find a recruiting office.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 1, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

With the education system lacking and with more fat kids out there, service academies will have to continue lowering their standards in the future.

Posted by: vmrg1974 | February 1, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Relaxed standards are not helping these students because the real Navy needs leaders. What are these students going to do when they actually have to perform their jobs? Ask for a waiver? I am all for everyone getting an opportunity regardless gender or racial background, but this is a military academy, the primary focus should be getting the best of the best period! If those canidates happen to be women or minorities then great, if not that doesn't mean lower qualifications and standards. If anything that's insulting.

Posted by: UnknownHenson | February 1, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree with moondoggie..Let's go back to an all white male officer corps. Everyone knows minorities are only good for following orders and becoming cannon fodder.

And yes, by all means let's confine this discussion to race, as if no one else receives preferential admission to our military academies.

I believe the most meaningful measure is not how Midshipmen receive their appointment, as much as how they perform as students once they are admitted and leaders once they graduate.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | February 1, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree with moondoggie..Let's go back to an all white male officer corps. And by all means, let's confine this discussion to race, as though no one else receives preferential admission to our military academies. After all everyone knows minorities are only good for following orders and becoming cannon fodder.

I believe the most meaningful measure is not how Midshipmen receive their appointment, as much as how they perform as students once they are admitted and leaders once they graduate.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | February 1, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Who cares? Everyone is not going to have the same SAT score. So until there's a study showing that a substantial number of admits are flaming disasters, this is a non-issue.

Posted by: echenna | February 1, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

It all comes from the top. When the Chief of Naval operations states that the number one priority of the Academy is diversity rather than to graduate the best officers possible, we are in trouble. And when the stated objective is to make the officer corps "look like" the enlisted ranks, it is quotas, rather than standards that control.

But it gets worse. The midshipmen who talk to me complain that minorities and women are not held to the same academic, physical and ethical standards as others. It angers the honest and qualified ones who are painted with the same brush and viewed as members of an officially recognized inferior class. If the anecdotal reports are correct, unqualified officers are being sent to the Fleet, which cannot possibly be good for national security or the reputation of the institution that sent them.

Diversity is a rational goal if it means not discriminating using irrelevant criteria. After all, how stupid is it to ignore over half of the population when recruiting the best and the brightest? But quotas and double standards are equally stupid. Rather than producing a homogenious society, the contemporary version of "diversity" divides people into groups resulting in the Balkanization of American society, of which the Naval Academy mess is but a symptom.

It is fitting that this topic be debated this week as we approach a time when we celebrate the life of a man who called upon us to judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

Here is a book that explains how such ideals can be corrupted:

Posted by: GeneH3 | February 2, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

So, Daniel deVise/Washington Post have used the occasion of a local article to rehash his 2009 story for added effect, and to reiterate, or, belabor, an earlier point.

In that time, and to better enhance his journalistic reputation, it might have served him better to initiate, rather than repeat AND imitate, with some newer, more ignored topic.

Certainly, there are many other examples as this, whose data doesn't fall so easily onto his display as the Annapolis article. Some real effort might be required. These other, so far uncovered tales will provide us with the usual, easily digestible snapshots and short-term statistics. But, if he really works at it thoroughly, he might also reveal significant ripples and impacts over years that follow.

Affirmative action gets attention, almost to the extreme in some circles, and particularly when directed at the qualifications, or lack thereof, of minorities, and/or athletes. Often athletes are included in analysis, simply to appear to avoid the appearance of racial focus, even if that is actually the ultimate intent.
I have an idea.

Mostly ignored, at least in most public venues, until it's raised from the outside, are the impact of decades and generations of legacy admissions for majority applicants, and, an unexpected negative impact on minority applicants.

Therefore, he should make his next expose' on the impact of legacy program admissions to the Naval Academy, other services academies, prep schools, and elsewhere.

We're all familiar with one example of one admission in the 1950’s, which led to a future Naval aviator leaving several wrecked aircraft in his wake. This is certain not an isolated event.

Quantity? John Brittain, a former chief counsel at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and the attorney Eric Bloom note that underrepresented minorities make up 12.5 percent of the applicant pool at selective colleges and universities but only 6.7 percent of the legacy-applicant pool. At Texas A&M, 321 of the legacy admits in 2002 were white, while only three were black and 25 Hispanic. At Harvard, only 7.6 percent of legacy admits in 2002 were underrepresented minorities, compared with 17.8 percent of all students. At the University of Virginia, 91 percent of early-decision legacy admits in 2002 were white, 1.6 percent black, and 0.5 percent Hispanic.

Quality? Research from Princeton's Thomas Espenshade suggests that their weight is significant, on the order of adding 160 SAT points to a candidate's record (on a scale of 400-1600). William Bowen, of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and colleagues found that, within a given SAT-score range, being a legacy increased one's chances of admission to a selective institution by 19.7 percentage points. That is to say, a given student whose academic record gave her a 40-percent chance of admissions would have nearly a 60-percent chance if she were a legacy.

I look forward to his next, more original story in this realm.


Posted by: goodrice | February 3, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

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