U.S. Naval Academy Expels Midshipmen for Cheating Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A number of cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy had been expelled from the institution in the wake of a widespread cheating scandal. A backlash to the sanctions, believed to have been unequally doled out, led to further investigations by outside agencies, who looked into the cheating, the integrity of the Naval Academy, and the integrity of U.S. service academies as a whole. The scandal also affected the academy’s tradition of policing its own based on its honor code.

Summary of Event

On April 28, 1994, twenty-four midshipmen were expelled from the United States Naval Academy for cheating on an electrical engineering examination more than one year earlier, marking the culmination of a series of investigations that had demoralized students and brought to light serious problems at the military institution. In the fall of 1992 a number of midshipmen, students at the college, obtained information about the contents of a test being administered in an electrical engineering course. Some of these students shared the information with others enrolled in the course. Shortly thereafter, news of the cheating ring was brought to the attention of academy officials. Several dozen midshipmen were identified for cheating, among them at least eight members of the academy’s football Football;college team. [kw]Naval Academy Expels Midshipmen for Cheating, U.S. (Apr. 28, 1994) [kw]Cheating, U.S. Naval Academy Expels Midshipmen for (Apr. 28, 1994) Lynch, Thomas C. Naval Academy, U.S.;cheating scandal Lynch, Thomas C. Naval Academy, U.S.;cheating scandal [g]United States;Apr. 28, 1994: U.S. Naval Academy Expels Midshipmen for Cheating[02630] [c]Education;Apr. 28, 1994: U.S. Naval Academy Expels Midshipmen for Cheating[02630] [c]Corruption;Apr. 28, 1994: U.S. Naval Academy Expels Midshipmen for Cheating[02630] [c]Military;Apr. 28, 1994: U.S. Naval Academy Expels Midshipmen for Cheating[02630] [c]Government;Apr. 28, 1994: U.S. Naval Academy Expels Midshipmen for Cheating[02630] [c]Ethics;Apr. 28, 1994: U.S. Naval Academy Expels Midshipmen for Cheating[02630] Dalton, John H. Kelso, Frank B., Jr. Larson, Charles R.

While the punishment for cheating varies widely among colleges and universities in the United States, any form of cheating at a military service academy is considered a serious breach of that institution’s honor code. Normally, determination of guilt or innocence is made by an honor board consisting of fellow students, who either exonerate their fellow midshipman or recommend to the superintendent that a violator be immediately expelled. Hence, when word of this new cheating scandal spread among members of the brigade of midshipmen, most expected that all who had cheated would be dismissed. Rear Admiral Thomas C. Lynch, the academy superintendent, did not see the situation in such simple terms. It became apparent quickly that quite a few students were involved in the case and subject to expulsion. The media would be eager to publicize such a story, given that just two years had passed since the academy was embroiled in a Sexual harassment;at military academies[military academies] sexual harassment scandal. The new cheating incident threatened to further damage the institution’s already tarnished reputation with the American public.

Nevertheless, in December, 1992, Admiral Lynch launched an investigation, enlisting the assistance of the Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service, or CIS. Its involvement suggested to many academy students that the theft of the examination was being treated as a criminal offense. The effect of the inquiry on campus was chilling. At the same time, rumors began circulating that the superintendent was unwilling to dismiss certain offending students, especially members of the football team. The initial investigation was completed in the spring of 1993. Twenty-eight midshipmen were implicated. Only six, however, stood before honor boards and were recommended for expulsion, which were upheld by Admiral Lynch. The expelled students then appealed his decision to the secretary of the Navy.

Admiral Frank B. Kelso, Jr., a graduate of the Naval Academy, was serving as acting secretary of the Navy at the time the investigation was completed. He was concerned by the allegations of mismanagement and of favoritism within the investigation, so he directed a new inquiry to be headed by the Navy’s inspector general. More than one dozen investigators spent months interviewing the students who had taken the electrical engineering examination. The scope of the cheating became apparent as the inquiry progressed, and investigators learned that some midshipmen even sold classmates copies of the examination in advance of testing. Also of concern was the widespread disregard for the honor code on which the institution had relied for years as a means of self-policing among midshipmen.

Meanwhile, newspapers such as Washington Post The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and New York Times;and U.S. Naval Academy[U.S. Naval Academy] The New York Times carried detailed accounts of the proceedings during the sixteen months between the initial discovery of the cheating and outcome of the investigations. The media also paid special attention to the fate of the former Navy football players whose involvement as ringleaders in the cheating scandal allegedly sparked the controversy.

By the time the lengthy inquiry was completed in the spring of 1994, 134 midshipmen, by this time all seniors, had been implicated. A special honor panel consisting of three Navy admirals reviewed the inspector general’s findings and made recommendations to the new secretary of the Navy, John H. Dalton, regarding each case. Dalton, also a Naval Academy graduate, understood the gravity of the situation and wanted to be certain he dealt evenhandedly with each of the accused. After reviewing the evidence, he ordered the expulsion of twenty-four midshipmen and retained forty-two. Because the decisions were handed down just weeks before the implicated midshipmen were scheduled to graduate, the press zeroed in on the incident. Reporters were concerned that a considerable amount of taxpayers’ money had been spent on the investigation. They also focused on the fate of expelled midshipmen, who under current regulations could have been forced to pay back the cost of their education or enter the Navy not as commissioned officers but as enlisted personnel. Dalton waived both requirements.

The U.S. Department of Defense took immediate steps to restore integrity and trust in academy leadership. Admiral Charles R. Larson, a former academy superintendent who in 1994 was commander in chief of the Pacific Command, was asked to return to the academy to lead the institution. Given that Larson was under consideration at the time for appointment as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as chief of naval operations, it was obvious that he was held in high esteem. The designation of a senior admiral to a position normally held by an officer of lower rank was an immediate signal that Defense Department officials considered the situation at the academy a top priority.


The cheating scandal at the Naval Academy was devastating to the institution as a whole. The cheating was demoralizing in itself, but the generally held belief that the superintendent had shown favoritism in dealing with alleged offenders and had tried to minimize the incident and cover up details was especially harmful to students who had rightly assumed that their leaders were persons of fairness and integrity. The incident ended the career of Admiral Lynch, who decided to retire.

The academy’s honor code was affected as well. Because outsiders such as Navy CIS and the Navy’s Office of the Inspector General entered the investigation, the time-honored tradition of allowing midshipmen to enforce the honor code themselves was violated. Also, the cheating scandal—coupled with reports of continuing sexual harassment Sexual harassment;at military academies[military academies] at Annapolis and the Army academy at West Point, New York, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado—led the U.S. Congress to initiate hearings on the state of operations at all the service academies. Congress wanted to ensure that appropriate steps were taken to protect the rights of all individuals involved. Outside review and direction, even from Congress, altered the Naval Academy’s freedom to establish its own rules for dealing with internal matters, that is, for taking care of its own. Lynch, Thomas C. Naval Academy, U.S.;cheating scandal

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fleming, Bruce. Annapolis Autumn: Life, Death, and Literature at the U.S. Naval Academy. New York: New Press, 2005. Examines the cheating scandal from the perspective of a academy faculty member. Discusses the personal reactions of a number of midshipmen involved in the incident.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gantar, Jeffrey, and Tom Patten. A Question of Honor. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1996. Personal account of the scandal by a midshipman accused of cheating. Provides details of actions taken by officials at the Naval Academy and the reaction of midshipmen to the charges and subsequent investigations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gelfland, H. Michael. Sea Change at Annapolis: The United States Naval Academy, 1949-2000. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. Brief assessment of the cheating scandal in light of the many changes and challenges facing both the students and faculty at the Naval Academy in the second half of the twentieth century.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Valentine, Paul. “Two Dozen Expelled in Naval Academy Cheating Scandal.” The Washington Post, April 28, 1994. Describes the outcome of the Naval Academy’s probe of the scandal, detailing facts uncovered during the sixteen-month investigation.

West Point Cadets Are Caught Cheating on Exams

U.S. Navy Secretary Resigns in the Wake of Tailhook Sexual Assault Scandal

Air Force Prosecution of Female Officer for Adultery Reveals Double Standard

E-mail Message Prompts Inquiry into Air Force Academy Sexual Assaults

U.S. Air Force Investigates Religious Intolerance at Its Academy

Washington Post Exposes Decline of Walter Reed Army Hospital

Categories: History