No college in America has a more storied history of national public service than the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point. West Point graduates include two presidents of the United States, so when there are allegations of cheating, it's a major story. Just this week, a spokesperson for West Point revealed that 73 cadets are accused of cheating during an exam in May.
Code of Honor
While academic probation might be a consequence of cheating at most colleges, at federal service academies, that kind of probation is reserved for sub-par grades. Each of the academies has an honor code that includes a prohibition on cheating. If found guilty of cheating, a cadet or midshipman faces honor probation as a possible consequence. Violations of the honor code can also result in expulsion from the academy. Because all but one of the accused in this incident were first-year cadets (freshmen), those that pled guilty were placed on honor probation for the rest of their time at USMA, and “enrolled in a six-month mentorship and rehabilitation program,” according to West Point's spokesperson. This means that any further violation of the honor code, “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do,” will probably result in expulsion. This could be for something that would be a trivial offense at a civilian college, such as lying about why you were late to class.
Other than Honorable
When cadets or midshipmen enter a service academy, they each enter a contract with their military service that requires they pay back their academy education with eight years of service as a commissioned officer after they graduate. If they fail to graduate, they can be made to repay the received portion of their education with service as an enlisted troop. Of the 73 cadets accused, 4 resigned. The repayment requirement of the contract does not come into force until a cadet or midshipman enters their second class (junior) year, so those that resigned, in this case, are not subject to repayment. Unfortunately, they will still have to explain the circumstances of their resignation to prospective colleges and employers in the future. For second class cadets (juniors) and first class cadets (seniors) facing expulsion, they may have to serve an enlistment of two to four years in the Army, putting their college and career dreams on hold. If the expulsion is a result of honor proceedings, the cadet may be found unsuitable for service and forced to repay the cost of their education in cash. With a West Point education valued at $225,000, that could be no small bill. Cadets are members of the Regular Army, so they also receive a military discharge; in this case, a discharge “under other than honorable conditions,” that will be reported to employers for the rest of their lives.
In this incident at West Point, eight of the cadets involved have maintained their innocence and will face honor investigative hearings. A cadet or midshipman facing such a hearing is well advised to:
- Say nothing, even in defense
- Ask for the specifics of the allegation, including copies of all evidence
- Understand the investigative process, particularly timelines, which can be as short as three days for some steps
- Know possible outcomes of decisions by the accused and administration at each stage of the process and the associated consequences
- Get help from an attorney-advisor before making any decisions
West Point cadets have a right to consult counsel during the separation process, even if they are considering resigning instead of facing honor proceedings. It is imperative that cadets and midshipmen have the best possible chance at fair, just outcomes. Joseph D. Lento is tenacious in ensuring the accused's interests are paramount at every step in the process. The government and schools have their lawyers--put the Lento Law Firm to work for you--call 888-535-3686 today.