Monday, November 27, 2006

An Albatross now hangs around the neck of the Coast Guard Academy. Thank you Admiral Van Sice.

The Coast Guard Academy like the Ancient Mariner now has an albatross around its neck. The Academy wears this albatross as a symbol of its guilt in the killing of the career of Webster Smith. You have a heavy burden of guilt that has become an obstacle to success. (Ah, well a-day. what evil looks you may get from old and young; instead of the cross, the Albatross around your neck is hung.)

In a move that caught the U.S. Coast Guard by surprise, the DAY reported on 30 April 2008 that the House of Representatives passed a bill that would require congressional nomination for admission to the Coast Guard Academy.

Unlike the nation's other military service academies, which admit students by nomination, the Coast Guard Academy has traditionally admitted students on the basis of academic merit, using the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) like civilian colleges and universities.

A provision in the 2008 Coast Guard Authorization Act, a bill that authorizes appropriations for the service for fiscal year 2008 as well as policy changes, requires applicants to the academy to obtain a nomination from an official source, such as a member of Congress or an authority from a U.S. territory.

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, proposed bringing the application process in line with the other academies as a way to diversify the cadet corps.

The academy would have to allocate the current number of cadet positions to each state, proportional to the representation in Congress from that state, and a set number of positions to residents of the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.
Academy officials can then offer appointments to students who meet these criteria and the admission requirements. Some students may be appointed to the academy without competing in this way, including children of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and children of service members who died while on active duty

In his floor statement, Cummings said the change,“in conjunction with expanded minority recruiting efforts, will draw students from all of our nation's communities to the academy- beginning the process that the commandant himself has said is needed to expand minorities at all ranks of the more than 6,000-member officer corps from the current number of 827.”
But the provision took both the Coast Guard and the White House by surprise.

There is too much Political Correctness at the Academy to stimulate intellectual growth. The Academy bosses are straining at gnats and swallowing camels. The ghost of your misdeeds and vile treatment of Webster Smith will follow you whereever you go. It haunts every decision you make. Now, you are making a lot of bad decisions. You are doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. Professor Gary Donato's classroom approach sounds novel and exciting. It is terrible that such a bright intellectual light has been extinguished to appease a couple of pea-brains. Alas, that is what happens when you start down the slippery slope of prosecuting innocent men on trumpted-up charges. Nothing you ever do again will seem right.

As was reported by Richard Rainey in The Day, Instructor Feels His Technique Cost Him Job At CG Academy. Introductory rant served Professor Donato well for many years, but 2 cadets complained.

By Richard Rainey of The Day.

For educational purposes, Gary Donato hates women. He hates gays and minorities, too. And, on most occasions, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy instructor throws immigrants into a xenophobic mix for extra measure.
At the beginning of every semester, Donato would launch his American government course with an acerbic attack on all those who are not white and male. He says he presented himself as a racist, misogynist, homophobic, foreign-hating individual.

It was his way of shocking the political correctness out of cadets as they begin to look at the founding of American democracy and its evolution over the centuries a teaching technique Donato says he has used for 14 years, six of which he spent at the academy.

He used the same tactic on Aug. 24, the fall semester's first day. However, after female students complained about him to the academy's civil rights officer, his technique may well have led to the end of his time there.

Before the semester began, Donato received what he describes as good news: an Aug. 13 letter that his semester-by-semester contract would be extended to the end of the 2006-07 school year.

After the complaints, however, the academy suspended Donato and investigated the incident. Yet documents obtained by The Day showed the investigating officer, Cmdr. Richard F. Roncone, and a three-member oversight panel that included the dean of academics, Kurt Colella, found nothing wrong with Donato's teaching style and recommended he be returned to the classroom.

Instead, Donato received an Oct. 25 letter reneging the offer to teach at the academy in the spring. His contract will expire Dec. 26.

Donato saw a deeper motive for the non-renewal of his contract: The academy, now entrenched in an extensive examination of its policies and procedures in the wake of a court-martial this summer of a Black senior cadet convicted of sexual assault, is overly responsive to any conflicts, perceived or otherwise, that might hint at race or gender discrimination on its campus.
There's an over-sensitivity at the academy to look tough after the events of the last year, Donato said. He was referring to the conviction in June of Webster M. Smith, 23, of sexual assault and extortion. Smith is serving a six-month prison sentence in a Navy brig, but continues to maintain his innocence.
Academy officials declined several requests for further comment, calling the Donato case a private personnel matter.
Donato sees his predicament as an indication of what could become a steady chilling effect on academic freedom at the campus. Yet he still sees the academy as an ideal place to work.

For 14 years, Donato has taught classes in the humanities departments of nearly a dozen colleges, from Wesleyan and Yale universities to the University of Connecticut and Mitchell College. He began teaching at the Academy in 1998, and his contract was picked up every semester afterward, he said.

Donato explained his unusual teaching technique as an illustration of the layering of laws that molded the American government over the centuries. As a semester progresses and students examine new laws, constitutional amendments and different philosophies, Donato said, he cuts back on the bigotry to show how society and government have evolved.

You don't design (government) for the best of conditions, he said. You design it for the worst of conditions.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

Professor Gary Donato's dismissal is more than an indication of what could become a steady chilling effect on academic freedom at the Coast Guard Academy. It is yet another illustration of what can happen when inmates take over the asylum. It is unfortunate that he was not a fully tenured professor.
This is more than a chilling effect on academic freedom; it is a direct threat to a quality education. Every right thinking cadet at the Academy should be outraged. If there can be no diversity of teaching methods, no original thought on how best to present difficult subject matter, then how can an untenured professor be intellectually honest with himself and his students in his curriculum? Professor Donato should not be bullied into abandoning a teaching style that is designed to stimulate thinking. The Academy is turning out too many nerds with photographic memories who do not know how to think.
Students should be required to go beyond simple memorization and regurgitation of facts for exams.
Did two whining students purport to speak for the entire student body? It should not be the students' perogative to decide who teaches or how they should teach.
This inevitably leads to a dumbing-down of the core curriculum and the functional abilities of Academy's graduates. Giving students the power or the perceived power to dismiss professors through Civil Rights complaints or student evaluations that are little more than beauty contests will lead to a deterioration of academic standards.
Dismissing Professor Donato is just another example of an Administration with no steady hand at the helm. After the Webster Smith debacle, what more could we expect from the Gang that Can't Shoot Straight?

3:20 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Laws31 writes:
While your comments on your Academy blog are usually fairly close to the truth, your comments about Gary Donato are way off base. Do you realize that he was investigated for calling two Black cadets the "N-word" other females "B-word" (rhymes with rich) and he claimed to do this as part of a lesson? He didn't even tell them he was pretending. you're pointing the finger the wrong way in the Donato case. He should have gotten fired and where the Academy failed is in not explicitly saying that he had done anything wrong. Dont' believe me? Ask around.

The Day took his side, but he was way, way off base.

2:15 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Dear Laws31,
These is some powerful accusations that you are
making. I feel your emotion. Usually such language as
you describe is "prima facie" evidence of a malicious
mind. It would give rise to a presumption of guilty of
intending to dehumanize someone, without any other
evidence; but, not always.
You see, use of the "N"-Word is a specific intent
crime. A lot has to do with the intent and the
motivation of the speaker. I am sure that you would
agree that use of the N-Word is not off-limits to
everyone, at all the times. It is just a word; it has
its time and place for use. It is the most powerful
word in the English language. One has to be very
careful how and when one uses it.
Sometimes the context of its usage can be determinative.
In this case I am willing to give the professor the
benefit of the doubt. I am persuaded based on what has
been written, that he did not intend to insult,
dehumanize, "dis", disrespect, or murder the soul of
anyone. It appears that he was trying to make the
strongest point possible, for what would come after in
his class.
The fact that he hurt so many peoples' feelings,
would seem to indicate that he was successful.
It does not mean that he is a bad person; or, that
he hates Black people, or that he is a white
supremacist, or that he should lose his job over it.
It appears to mean that he was so dedicated to
teaching and to making the "real-life" point that he
devised a unique way to get the message across.
Words are like hammers. They can be used to build
houses and bridges, or they can be used to smash
someone over the head.
Let's assume Professor Donato meant to build a
bridge rather than smash someone over the head. He
meant to enlighten someone's mind; not to crush the
life out of a fragile soul.
Poverty and ignorance are the ultimate forms of
violence and racial hatred; not name-calling, and
hurling epiteths. Professor Donato was fighting
ignorance. He is a soldier in the War on Poverty.
Ignorance was his foe, and wit was his weapon.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous writes:
You know it makes sense to me that at the academy there was/is so much drinking and partying under Van Sice. He had his own brewery, that is what he valued and praised, so the cadets tried to please him, by doing what they thought would get them on Van Sice's good side - Drinking, drinking and drinking.
The cadets drank to please Admiral Van Sice.

7:07 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Laws31 writes:
Dear Ichbinalj:

Sir, thank you so much for your explanation of Professor Donato's actions. Here I thought that being called a n%*(r was a bad thing, but you're right, he was just trying to teach ignorant folk a lesson. Someday maybe other cadets will be fortunate enough to be called that by a caring soldier of war on poverty. Sir, it's too bad that people can't be called be that word anymore without whining about it. You are too wise for words. Personally I can not wait until my feelings are hurt and I can learns a lesson by being called that word that i used to think was horrible until you set me straight.

11:38 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Your sarcasm is misplaced. If you are a cadet and if
you graduate and if you get assigned to some units
that I have had the poor fortune to spend some time
on, then you will be called that and much worse.
Sometimes it will be to your face in a joke. Sometimes
it will be behind your back. Other times it might be
when the speakers did not know that you were around.
Grow-up, or resign. With your sensitive skin,
pampered personality, and righteous indignation you
would be lucky to last a year or two in the service.
There are a lot of people out there who do not like
you, or that you have a spot that should have been
filled by one of their own kind, and they do not mind
telling you so.
The world, and the Coast Guard have not changed
that much since I was a cadet and an officer. The
Academy is heaven compared to the hell you will face
out there in the service.
Professor Gary Donato is small potatoes compared to
what awaits you. You will not be able to spend a 20
year career crying on someone's shoulder every time
you are insulted; and, you cannot find satisfaction
through the available administrative remedies (NJP, Court-martials,
grievances, or civil rights complaints).
I tried to school you, but don't take my word for
it. Keep living. Experience is the best teacher. (Repeat after me: Sticks and stones my break my bones, but [[words cut through bone and marrow all the way to the very soul. But, to be successful when I am outnumbered I will pretend that]] words can never hurt me.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the insightful comments of ichbinalj refreshing and right on the mark. My (yes, me) pedagogical style serves not me but the student toward the half-way mark of the class and more importantly, after graduation. Law31 is atypical of the brilliant minds, mature minds of my Academy classes over the 8 years I had the pleasure of teaching and mentoring honors students. I continue my 15 year teaching at other colleges and universities with highly positive student comments and results. And just for the record, I am also the co-chair of the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee at one of those colleges. Hopefully LAW31 is watching very closely this election as my classes were and are designed to prepare individuals to take on the awesome responsibility of citizenship in the real world, not the world behind the walls of academe - even one as prestigious as CGA.

9:37 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) will hear the WEBSTER SMITH case. Oral Argument has been scheduled for September 2009!

9:31 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

This entry was posted by on June 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.
QUOTE: "We were notified today that Webster Smith, the first cadet to ever be courts-martialed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has had his site blocked by the U.S. Coast Guard. Smiths website “Friends of Webster” is not accessible inside the Coast Guard domain. We reviewed the site and couldn’t find anything in our cursory review that would warrant being blocked."

5:12 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

October 7, 2009

Professor Accuses Naval Academy of Illegal Retaliation Over Affirmative-Action Criticisms

A professor at the U.S. Naval Academy has filed a federal whistle-blower complaint alleging that the institution improperly denied him a deserved pay increase for publicly accusing it of illegally operating a separate admissions track for minority students.

Bruce E. Fleming, a professor of English and civilian employee of the Naval Academy, said he filed a formal complaint last month with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates whistle-blower accusations by federal employees.
(Kim Hairston, The Sun)

6:09 PM  

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