Speak Out!

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- Frank Shannon was expelled from the Naval Academy after failing the school's distance run by 20 seconds.

At other service academies, he would have passed because their required times are slower.

Shannon received numerous chances to pass but was eventually expelled. Now, after investing seven years in the Navy and the Academy, he has no degree and no Navy commission, and he owes the U.S. government more than $127,000 for his education.

Should Shannon have been expelled for failing the running test? Should he have gotten a commission or a degree, and should he have to repay the government the full cost of his education?

High standards critical for Academy

The U.S. Naval Academy has high standards - higher than most schools. Meeting and exceeding those high standards for four years builds character, character necessary to lead sailors and Marines in combat situations. If standards are ignored, they are no standards at all.

USNA is not a liberal, PC, Ivy League institution. It is a special school dedicated to preparing warriors for the defense of this country.

In my opinion, Frank Shannon should not graduate and he should not receive a diploma or credit for his academic work, but he should not be required to repay the $127,000.

Raymond H. Clary Jr. U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1965 Vicksburg, Miss.

Other factors may be involved

There must be other factors involved in the case of Frank Shannon, of which the public has not been made aware. It is difficult to believe that Vice Adm. Rempt, the Naval Academy superintendent, would be so capricious to expel him for failing the run by 20 seconds.

I think that, at the worst, Shannon should have been denied a commission, but he should have been given a diploma with no obligation to pay the government for his education. This has been done many times over the years for midshipmen who pass academically but who are ineligible for a commission based on a physical disqualification.

Richard B. Luthin, M.D. USNA, Class of 1953 Jacksonville, Fla.

He should be able to graduate, serve

It's interesting that Mr. Shannon was given several opportunities to run the correct time when the Academy wanted him for football. Your article only mentioned one opportunity for him to run in January. I would think that academics and character would speak more highly than physical attributes. You mentioned that the Naval Academy standards are higher than other service branches. What a shame that he was cast out for a mere 20 seconds - after one try! How much running will be involved in his area of interest of his studies or in his future job with the Navy? You also mentioned that these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Senator Mikulski and the "powers in charge" should back his receiving his degree and allow him to defend our country, especially now that recruitment figures are down.

Emily Marshall Gambrills

Football training proves fitness

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to enforce this requirement on Shannon who is apparently in excellent physical condition due to his football training. For a Navy officer it seems downright foolish under the circumstances. Perhaps for a Marine officer it would make more sense, but the Marines have their own standards that Shannon would be expected to pass annually.

There has to be another reason to bilge this young midshipman. Moreover, it is certain to have an effect on football player recruiting, particularly linebacker material.

Retired Col. Winchell M. Craig Jr. U.S. Marine Corps Bend, Ore.

Graduation must be earned

Graduation from the Naval Academy is an honor and a privilege that is earned.

It is the Academy's responsibility to educate and to evaluate leadership skills.

Shannon failed a basic test of stamina and will and should not have been commissioned. His indebtedness is typical of attendance at an Ivy League college.

He needs to transfer his credits, get his degree and get on with his life.

Maryellen O. Brady Edgewater

Hard to determine appropriate outcome

If Mr. Shannon did all of the training and physical fitness exercises needed to pass the distance run but still failed, then he should be cut some slack up to and including a commission. Possibly the commission could be in a career path other than line officer.

If he made no overt effort other than showing up on time for the run, the Navy made the right decision, but one wonders how he was allowed to get as far as he did.

A. M. "Mick" Thistle Annapolis

It's not public's place to judge Academy

As a mother of two academy graduates, I do not feel it is up to the general public to decide whether the Academy's rules are right or wrong. The Academy has its rules, and Mr. Shannon failed to pass one of the requirements for graduation.

Jeanne K. Campbell Annapolis

20 seconds shouldn't cost Mid $127,000

As I understand it, Frank Shannon failed to qualify for graduation and commissioning by falling short of a running requirement by 20 seconds. Because his run would have easily passed the requirements I have read are standard at the Air Force Academy and West Point, I don't see why he was refused graduation after prior naval service and four years of satisfactory academic performance and conduct. I especially don't understand why, at this point, he is told he owes $127,000 for his education. Did anyone tell him, or other midshipmen, that if they fail a requirement for graduation they will be back-charged this large amount?

Charles McIntosh USNA, Class of 1951 Lake Tahoe, Calif.

He deserves degree, commission

Frank Shannon should not have been expelled, but allowed to graduate and should not have to repay the government for his education. For 20 seconds, it seems ridiculous to give such punishment.

Edna Sutton Rock Hall

Big picture should be considered

Considering the qualities we look for in our future naval officers - courage, intelligence, integrity, leadership - a slight failure to meet the distance running standard by a few seconds does not seem terribly important. The Academy should reverse its decision, graduate the young man with a degree and commission and let him join the fleet.

Joseph and Sally Laing Arnold

Expulsion account doesn't ring true

Frank Shannon's expulsion doesn't ring true for at least two reasons. The standard of 10 minutes, 30 seconds for a mile and a half is arbitrary and shared neither by the other service academies nor the officer corps of the Navy at large. Secondly, the practice of demanding payment for tuition used to be restricted to expulsions for willful causes such as criminal acts or resignations after beginning the third year.

We used to have graduates that were tagged NPQ (not physically qualified). They got the diploma, but not the commission and obligation. I would guess that this wouldn't apply because Shannon could plainly go through Officer Candidates School and be commissioned an Ensign, if he so chose. If he's going to have to pay $127,000, he should at least be granted the diploma in turn for being awarded this "student loan." Remember, he only fell 3 percent short of the standard.

Patrick Waugh USNA, Class of 1963 Parker, Ariz.

If he must pay, he should get degree

If Shannon will be required to pay back more than $100,000, he should at least be given his degree.

I can't say whether the Academy made the right decision in the expulsion area, because I do not have all of the details.

Mark Storto USNA, Class of 1984 Neighborville, Ill.

Episode demands further explanation

Unless there is something that is not being reported, this is not only bad leadership - it is poor management. Further elaboration on Vice Admiral Rempt's statement of "failed to display the desire to meet the standard" is required. Desire is a paramount issue at the Naval Academy - if one displays it, the Naval Academy will go beyond the norm to assist any midshipman.

Without knowing all the particulars associated with the Frank Shannon case, one must conclude that Mr. Shannon should have been given multiple opportunities to shave off the 20-second differential, awarded his degree (after successfully completing the run), and naturally would not have to repay the government the full cost of his education. A recruited athlete does not have to pay back anyone if he or she is hurt and deemed "Not Physically Qualified" (NPQ). Something is just not right about this case.

Jim Savard USNA, Class of 1965 Littleton, Colo.

Females not held to 10:30 standard

As a Naval Academy graduate, it is very difficult to respond to your request for feedback on the subject of the dismissal of Midshipman Shannon for being 20 seconds too slow in his 1.5-mile run.

The only information that we have is your article. We have no information from the Naval Academy other than the comments and what its administration provided to you for your article.

Nonetheless, it appears that this whole situation is not satisfactory from many points of view.

For example, the deputy commandant, Marine Col. Fuquea, is quoted as saying: "We cannot afford to send someone out to lead sailors and Marines that has not met the standard morally, mentally and physically."

Presumably, he is putting himself in the moccasins of those "sailors and Marines." And, he is saying that they would be hoping that their leader is a combat capable officer, which is to say that they will accomplish the mission and their officer will maybe bring everyone home alive. Accordingly, they hope that he/she can do a mile and a half in 10 minutes, 30 seconds. Imagine the upset of those sailors and Marines if their leader is a female graduate of Annapolis and she only had to do the mile and a half in 12 minutes, 40 seconds!

Col. Fuqua and the rest of the Academy administration had better exercise a little more circumspection before they presume to speak for sailors and Marines who are to be led by future graduates of the Naval Academy, lest the Academy folks inadvertently open themselves to charges of double standards.

John G.B. Howland Wheeling, Ill.

The writer is moderator at http:--groups.yahoo.com/group/USNA-At-Large

High stakes warrant more flexibility

I think that for any endeavor as involved as four years at the U.S. Naval Academy, a little bit of flexibility should be shown and Mr. Shannon should have graduated and not have been expelled. I fully realize you do have to have a "cutoff" point, either pass or fail. But in this case, I think the stakes for both parties are too high and the tolerance too little. It is scary to think that this one minuscule shortcoming out of so much monumental effort over such a long time has made this much difference in the life of a person who is apparently very talented, qualified and deserving.

Kenneth Thomas Jr. Cambridge

Distance run not crucial for sailors

I can't believe how rigid the Navy is in this case. When a sailor is serving on a ship, how many times will he be asked in a combat situation to do a distance run?

Frank Shannon should not be expelled and should at the very least receive a degree, if not a commission. In no way should he be made to pay back the $127,000 for the cost of his education for failing the running test.

Although not mentioned, I think the man passed all the other physical and academic requirements. If the Navy does not want him, perhaps his congressman can get him into the Air Force Academy or West Point and transfer all of his credits. After mastering the regulations of either of those services, I am sure he could still become a fine military officer.

The Navy's loss would be the Air Force or Army's gain.

Gerard Todd Linthicum

Situation reflects poorly on Academy

I spent almost 10 years in the Navy, and I could not believe my eyes when I read the stories on Mr. Shannon being thrown out of the Academy two months short of his graduation and college degree for failing a run by 20 seconds.

It didn't seem to bother the Academy all the times he failed the same run as long as he was an active member of the football team. This action by the Naval Academy does nothing but bring shame onto itself. I always believed the Naval Academy had high moral and ethical standards, but this reprehensible action sure has opened my eyes and shown that it is no better than the rest of the country's colleges that put sports performance first and what's good for the person last. Mr. Shannon has been demeaned and abandoned by the Academy he served for almost five years. Mr. Shannon should have at least been awarded his degree. He surely earned it.

Mr. Shannon should not have to repay his full tuition. The comment that "he failed to display the desire to meet the standard" is just the Academy "making smoke" to cover its aft.

Lee Marshall Gambrills

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