Professor Bruce Fleming is not your typical US Naval Academy (USNA) Professor. He teaches English and he also happens to be a liberal. I’ve written favorably in my books about his work because he also happens to believe in speaking the truth. And by speaking the truth about the dirty secrets of affirmative action at the Naval Academy, he has set off a fire storm.
Fleming wrote a piece last year exposing the fact that the USNA had a “two-tiered” system of admission that was designed to bring more minorities into the academy. (Since access to the full article has expired, reporting on the article is available here.) And he began speaking to academy alumni about the lower standards. “We’ll do anything to get non-white students,” he said, in order to appear more diverse and improve the football team. According to Fleming, the admissions system is two-tiered because minority candidates have lower test scores and grades than their counterparts. In short, Fleming says that the Academy is rejecting better qualified white applicants to admit minority candidates with less impressive credentials. The USNA has been very aggressive on the affirmative action front in recent years. In 2009, Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, went so far as to say that “diversity is the No. 1 priority” at the academy. (Gee, I guess training warriors and officers is now #2).
But Fleming, who has served on the academy’s admissions board, goes even further. While white applicants are required to secure a nomination by a member of congress or other federal official, minority candidates are sometimes given what he calls “a pro forma nomination to make it legit.”
But it gets even worse. As the Associated Press reports:
“Fleming told The Associated Press that midshipmen who struggle are given easier coursework or unlimited tutoring, breeding resentment among students who expected to get a first-rate education along with their military training. The environment is particularly toxic for talented black midshipmen, he said, because they are perceived by some classmates as less-qualified.
‘My students are disillusioned beyond belief,’ Fleming said. ‘They see people being coddled for political reasons or racial reasons or sports reasons.’
The result, he said, is a watered-down officer corps that weakens the military. Navy leaders haven’t fully articulated their reasoning for wanting more minority officers, he said.
‘What I hear is, what the enlisted people want is an officer who won’t get them killed,’ he said.”
The Navy apparently doesn’t care for Fleming’s honesty. Even though he was recommended for a merit pay increase by his supervisors, it was denied by the Navy brass. So Fleming filed a complaint. While he cannot discuss the details, he says that he is very satsifed with the result.
I had precious few professors like Fleming when I went to college. I wish I had more. Bravo to Fleming for speaking the truth. Hopefully his efforts will help to restore the highest standards to the USNA.