Repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' was good for the U.S. Naval Academy

It was heartening to see current and past midshipmen speak openly of the salutary effect on the U.S. Naval Academyof repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy ("Mids describe smooth transition from 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" May 21). Your article, however, overlooked one important consequence of this change — the impact on the classroom.

Since arriving at the Naval Academy 12 years ago, I have felt that one of its greatest strengths is the bond of trust between faculty and students, a bond much more profound than the enforced respect of military culture. The end of the ban has only served to deepen that trust.

While there is seldom a reason to bring one's personal life to the classroom, both faculty and midshipmen now have the assurance that discussions and debates can be honest and unfettered. In the humanities and social sciences particularly, where questions of ethics, beliefs and cultural practices are central, this assurance makes a tangible difference.

Also tangible is the absence of epithets and disparaging remarks against gays and lesbians. Until recently, midshipmen felt compelled to acquiesce in the presence of such speech, and faculty were forced either to confront or ignore it, even if only occasionally. Finally, we have been relieved of this distraction for good.

Todd S. Garth, Annapolis

The writer is an associate professor of Spanish at the U.S. Naval Academy.

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