Nestled in the foothills of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, the U.S. Air Force Academy boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. However, cadets and Air Force brass there are still reeling from an ugly series of sexual misconduct incidents at that school.
Last month a congressional panel determined that Air Force and Academy officials should have detected the signs of an unsafe and hostile environment for women cadets.
The numbers of sexual misconduct allegations are staggering. It would be a depressing statistic for any institute of higher learning, but it's particularly disheartening for an elite school established to train U.S. military leaders. Between 1993 and 2002, there were 142 allegations of sexual assault at the academy. A separate Defense Department survey found that nearly one in five female cadets said they had been sexually assaulted since coming to the academy with just 19 percent of that group reporting the crime.
Lt. Gen. John Rosa, who took over the top post at the academy in July after other leaders were given the boot, has vowed to change the culture at the academy. If recent cadet surveys are accurate the academy superintendent has his work cut out for him. One survey said one in five male cadets still do not want women in the school. As Rosa noted, this is a discouraging notion to be fighting, 27 years after women were first admitted to the Air Force Academy. This sort of hostility might be expected in the first year or two of a transition but not after almost 30 years.
Even if a few veterans wax nostalgic about the days when the armed forces were an all-male club, current military leaders realize the armed forces will never go back to those days.
Professional choices for women are far greater than they were 30 years ago. Tradition-bound institutions such as law firms, medical clinics and newspapers have all adjusted and benefited from the influx of women. There's no reason why the U.S. Air Force Academy shouldn't do the same.
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