May 16, 2004 in Nation/World

School’s ‘negative attitudes’ linger

Robert Weller Associated Press
 

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — It could take up to a decade to change the negative attitudes that led to a sexual assault scandal at the Air Force Academy, an academy leader said Saturday.

Col. Debra Gray, vice commandant of cadets, said during a two-day meeting of the academy’s oversight board that a March survey found 20 percent of male senior cadets opposed having female cadets — the same percentage as in a similar survey last year.

“Negative attitudes persist,” said Gray. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Investigators announced last year that 142 sexual assault cases at the academy were reported between 1993 and 2003, including instances in which female cadets said they were punished for reporting attacks.

Officials say the academy’s Board of Visitors, which was criticized for its inactivity, is playing a stronger role as it follows up on the scandal and handles reports of cheating among freshmen cadets.

“We’re no longer an honorary board. We are interacting constantly,” board chairman Jim Gilmore said at a meeting Friday.

The board has increased its meeting schedule from two to four per year, with two meetings in Washington, D.C., and two at the academy.

“We’ve doubled the time we spend together,” said Lt. Gen. John Rosa, academy superintendent.

Still, only eight of 14 members were attending the two-day meeting over the weekend.

Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia, said academy leaders who replaced administrators ousted last April after the scandal became public are making changes, from setting new alcohol policies to adding patrols in dormitories. He said so far this year only two sexual assault cases have been reported.

On Saturday, the board’s agenda included a briefing on a cheating incident allegedly involving 70 freshmen cadets. Gilmore said the academy caught the alleged cheaters and would take action against them.

As of Friday, six cadets had resigned, including three who admitted cheating on the test, known as the “props and wings” test, which focuses largely on military etiquette, pay and other issues.

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