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West Point Cheating Scandal

Essay by review  •  December 10, 2010  •  Case Study  •  1,647 Words (7 Pages)  •  2,557 Views

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West Point Cheating Scandal


In April of 1976 it was found that there was a possibility that over half of the junior class at West Point Academy had violated the West Point honor code by cheating on a case assignment. The honor code states "A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." This was by far the largest violation of the honor code in West Point history and presented some unusual challenges to the administration. As the year dragged on it was found that more and more students possibly had cheated on the assignment and was also becoming a public relations nightmare in the press and internally to the Army branch of the United States military.

The honor code at West Point was pointed and harsh in its dealings with violators and this case brought scrutiny, criticism as well as staunch support for the code and how violations were dealt with. To follow the honor code would be to expel all students involved and this would be a heavy hit on the academy. "At this time West Point had been having trouble recruiting soldiers because of the public attitude toward the military following the Vietnam War" The other possibility was to scrap the way the system was supposed to behave to keep the cadets in school and to reconstruct the honor code and the way it handled violations.


The diagnosis of the problem stems from the fact that honor code was a rigid book of rules that all cadets were expected to adhere too. All parties guilty of violations were given the harshest punishment of expulsion. They were 100% aware of what was involved and consequences of actions if violated. The Army and the military in general has always been a place of direct leaders and subordinates and takes in pride in the fact that it is a highly disciplined way of life. More so at the respective academies which were created to train and educate future leaders in the branches.

The academies are based on trust of your superiors as well as obedience to their commands. There is also the possibility of disappointing your colleagues and in turn losing their respect and camaraderie. This in itself is the one of the reasons some say that the honor code and system had been so successful throughout the years.

A change in the code would go against everything that West Point had always stood for and then would hold future graduates to a lesser standard than their predecessors. The code could be seen by many as much too strict and asking young men to adhere to its rules would be asking too much of them. The empowerment and enforcement of the code has always been up to the ethics committee which is made up of cadets itself. This had always been to exert pressure on all students to comply with the code by means of having to face your peers in hearings.

The one part of the honor code that was a staple of controversy was the end that says no cadet will tolerate any action that violates the honor code. This implied that if you knew anything about a violation that you were just as liable as the offender himself. This part of the code was troubling for many considering you were dealing with comrades who were training next to you in close quarters and with serious future implications. This can be a very precarious situation for many and by holding students to it can promote more honor code violations. The problem here is the fact that anyone can make mistakes and in the situations involving the honor code West Point has taken the honor out of supporting your comrades as well as the honor of admitting to your mistakes. They have done this by issuing expulsion to all violators. It can be said that someone who can admit to their mistakes knowing the consequences that will ensue is of a stronger moral background than one who may not violate the code in the first place or someone who does not get caught. (Note: the current honor code allows for reacceptance to the academy after violations and punishments ensue)

At the same time the honor code is a symbol to all and example to the country that the young men who are attending are there for a purpose and have given this time of their lives to that purpose. Being accepted and going to West Point is supposed to be an honor and a challenge. All that comes along with this honor and discipline is the fact that they are there to do an important job for many people. This would imply that it is correct to ask them to live to a higher standard than civilians as well as their future subordinates and the scrapping of this code would put them into the same grouping as any other students, and these people are not just any other students. It has been noted that the standards of the entire Army are those of West Point.


A good applicable theory involved in this case is that of legitimate power. In legitimate power circumstances in the military you are ordered and described in detail exactly how to do every part of your life, someone else is in control of how you are supposed to be and act. At West Point Academy this holds very true. The reasoning behind the legitimacy, especially at a military academy, comes from the fact that the people involved know what they are getting into and accept this.

At an academy you are being trained to someday be the one who will be the trainer and leader. If you cannot follow through with procedures when and how told you will not be able to inflict these procedures when



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