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West Point Case Study

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West Point Case Analysis
Bellevue University

Description “A Cadet will not lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate those who do”, reads West Point’s honor code, allegedly violated in 1976. The West Point Cheating Incident revolves around an incident from 1976, where over 100 juniors were alleged to have cheated on an electrical engineering exam. Cheating on an exam can have damning ramifications at any school, but when it comes to West Point; it is a direct violation of the schools highly held honor code. The honor code is a West Point tradition, and has helped mold military leaders with high integrity and strong values. Due to the sheer number of individuals, who were alleged to be involved, and where the scandal was happening, the event garnered national attention. Due to the uproar in the press and across the country, more pressure was placed on General Sidney Berry, Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy by bureaucrats and politicians alike.
Diagnosis
West Point is not your ordinary school setting. It is a breeding ground for training our nation’s best and brightest future military leaders. In the United States Military, it is imperative for soldiers to lead with character, while remaining calm under fire. It seems West Point, at the time of this event, concerned itself more around punishing for crimes than it did developing character. If West Point was truly interested in developing leaders with high character, it would not utterly dismiss individuals for any perceived violation of the honor code. “[E]ach organization is embedded—more or less—in its own tradition, and the core virtues in one tradition will not necessarily be the same in another” (Dufresne & Offstein, 2012, p. 576). The storied traditions of West Point seem to have stymied the institution from keeping up with the times.

Theory In the 1990’s, there was a survey conducted of 6,000 students from 31 colleges, 14 schools had an honor code and 17 did not. It was found that students at schools with honor codes had less cheating; however, if the students believed their peers were behaving with integrity as well, there was even less cheating (Dufresne & Offstein, 2012, p.576). Based upon this statistic, the honor code does have a place in West Point society, as well as helping maintain character development in future military officers. Simply because there is a violation of the honor code should not immediately require dismissal from West Point. One way to look at this would be in resiliency development. Our military is tasked to overcome numerous almost insurmountable obstacles. Soldiers can find themselves in the pits of despair, but are forced to dig deep and are forced to “focus on resilient thoughts based on their assessment of their resources and options to overcome adversity” (Luthans, 2011, p.223). By knocking a cadet who violates the honor code down a peg or two will force him to re-evaluate the playing field and develop a new plan to move forward. It could be seen as a turning point in the individual’s military career and life.
Prescription
I would recommend a tiered punishment system be enacted for those who violate the honor code. There should be different levels of punishment depending upon the offense. The punishment would be decided upon by a panel consisting of peers, alumni, and administration officials. The exact composition of said board could be decided upon at a later date. By providing more flexibility in the punishment system, it would allow for West Point to further develop strong character in its cadets. In this case, West Point dismisses the candidate, and the investment made into the individual is lost. Keeping the cadet could prove to be a better fiscal decision.
Fallout
The first group that would immediately want answers would be alumni who had to make it through the strict guidelines and honor code. The alumni will want to make sure West Point maintains its reputation for molding men of integrity and valor. What the alumni will need to understand is that just like the military and every other organization, occasionally change is required. West Point would be able to find themselves having more flexibility in molding the cadets as well. The applicants they have are some of the brightest young minds available. These applicants also have very strong morals, values and are known as high character individuals. Occasionally, there is a break down in decision-making, which leads to mistakes. Being able to learn from these mistakes and become better leaders will certainly prove valuable.

References
Dufresne, R.L. & Offstein, E.H. (2012). Holistic and intentional student character development process: Learning from west point. Academy Of Management Learning & Education, 11(4), 570-590.
Luthans, F. (2011). Advanced organizational behavior. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.

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