Naval Academy Admissions Easier on Minorities?
The Naval Academy's emphasis on creating a more diverse brigade of midshipmen has led to an admissions process that unofficially but effectively sets up separate tracks for white and nonwhite applicants in violation of federal law, one of the school's professors has charged.
Academy English professor Bruce Fleming, who served on the school's admissions board in 2002 and 2003, said academy officials have been careful not to set up a formal two-track system for white and nonwhite candidates, which would violate a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that threw out the University of Michigan's race-based application process. But that same kind of system is what has quietly been put in place at the academy, Fleming said, with lower standards for nonwhite applicants that make it easier for them to get in.
Fleming's charge, which first came in a guest column in the Annapolis, Md., newspaper The Capital, isn't the first time he has spoken out against the Naval Academy's diversity policies. But his June 14 column appeared less than a week after Superintendent Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler told the academy's Board of Visitors that its incoming plebe class of 2013 is the most diverse in its history, about 35 percent nonwhite. At that meeting, Fowler said that diversity was his No. 1 priority as superintendent.
Naval Academy spokesman Cmdr. Joe Carpenter would not comment specifically on Fleming's charges, but he said the academy does not have an official or unofficial two-track admissions process.
According to information provided by the academy, Navy Department lawyers have twice reviewed the school's admissions process since the University of Michigan decision and given it their approval.
All candidates approved by the school's admissions board are qualified, Carpenter said.
But Fleming said that because the admissions board is what gives the rating of "qualified," it can apply different standards to different candidates to deem them qualified. It uses lighter standards for candidates who describe themselves as black, Latino or Asian, Fleming said. He continues to see nonwhite midshipmen in his classes who aren't qualified for college-level work, he said.
"The academy is like a team ... where we choose a remedial player, where there's no guarantee you can even remediate him," Fleming said.
The Naval Academy admissions board uses a computer formula to determine scores for applicants.
Fleming said high-scoring white applicants are added to lists of qualified candidates who must compete for a nomination from a member of Congress. But almost every nonwhite applicant is deemed "qualified," even with lower grades or test scores - and not added to a list to compete for a nomination.
Naval Academy officials gave very different reasons for the record number of nonwhite midshipmen set to arrive on Induction Day on July 1. The biggest is targeted recruiting pitches to young, nonwhite students.
At the June 8 Board of Visitors meeting, Fowler and other school officials stressed the time they had spent talking to seventh- and eighth-graders about the Naval Academy, making them aware it existed and getting them ready to take preparatory courses, such as calculus, they need if they want to apply. By the time those students get to high school, it's too late to interest many of them in the Naval Academy, said Lt. Jeanine Benjamin, the academy's diversity admissions counselor.