In the ivory towers of academia, free thought is a virtue and authority exists to be questioned.
But at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, authority is to be revered and obeyed. For the 221 uniformed members of the teaching faculty, that's not a problem. They readily salute their commanders and heed orders.
For the 313 civilian professors, who teach everything from English literature to electrical engineering and often come from a culture that favors the free exchange of views, it can be a source of tension.
The tension comes from a series of stinging rebukes of Academy policies and the institution itself from a number of it civilian professors.
Based solely on the matter presented in the Sun, it seems as though there is enough blame to share.
Early this year, for example, he [tenured Egnlish Professor Bruce Fleming] published an essay in a Navy trade magazine criticizing the school's admissions process. Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt, the academy's superintendent, issued him a private rebuke.
And last month, Fleming was not permitted to sign copies of his latest book - which contains essays that question the academy's affirmative action policies - at the campus bookstore, a practice regularly allowed for other faculty.
Looking at this, Fleming needs to be reminded that the Academy does not handle admissions like most colleges. Save for a few exceptions, like being the child of a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, most students attend the Naval Academy, indeed West Point, the Air Force Academy, the Coast Guard Academy as well, through Congressional appointment. (here is a sample explanation of the academy appointment process) Each member of Congress and Senator gets a certain number of appointments to each academy (I think the number is five, but I am not sure). Thus, the admissions process involves people and institutions other than the Naval Academy. This admissions policy is the result of politics and tradition.
All military officers receive a commission from the United States Congress to serve as officers in the military--indeed as officers of the United States. For decades, most military officers came from the Academies, occaisionally supplemented by the ROTCs at various colleges and universities. The purpose behind congressional appointement to the academies is a result a desire to have officers appointed who were deemed worthy by those granting the commission, i.e. Congress.
Fleming should know this. But putting that aside, the Academy made a stupid mistake for issuing a rebuke, even a private rebuke to a professor. If anything, such a move all but guarantees a controversy. Whereas, if the Academy had simply issued a counterargument to Fleming's essay, it may have sparked a real debate about admissions, which admittedly are often skewed, both racially and politically.