A California congresswoman wants a personal sit-down with the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy after what she considers a “simply inadequate” response to a recently publicized January bus trip involving football recruits, underage drinking and cadet cheerleaders along for the ride.
Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat whose district includes part of southern San Francisco and who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, praised Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen “for taking responsibility for this latest incident, and for taking immediate steps to address the situation” in a letter sent to Caslen’s office Friday. But she strongly suggested more action be taken, including an immediate investigation by the school’s inspector general into the January incident in particular and the athletic department in general.
“Although cadets, officers, and coaches were found to be culpable for this incident, disciplinary measures appear to have amounted to nothing more than a slap on the wrist,” Speier wrote in the letter, which her office provided to Army Times.
Caslen is traveling to Washington, D.C., on previously scheduled business, where “he planned to address this issue and make himself available to any and all congressional members on the topic,” academy spokesman Theresa Brinkerhoff said in an email. The superintendent has a Tuesday meeting scheduled with members of the Senate Arms Services Committee, Brinkerhoff said.
In the letter, Speier asked whether athletes at West Point were held to a different behavior standard, referencing last year’s suspension of the men’s rugby team over an email chain that investigators said “would suggest a hostile team environment or a culture of disrespect towards women.” The school disbanded the team and punished its members, but all of the team’s seniors were allowed to graduate, and the squad was reinstated in time for the following spring season.
“I am deeply concerned that these events point to a deeper cultural issue at West Point, one where sports teams are allowed to see themselves as above the disciplinary code and even above the law,” Speier wrote.
In a statement issued shortly after details of the Jan. 25 trip became public, Caslen outlined the extent of the punishments, saying “[m]aximum allowable punishment under the Cadet Disciplinary Code was administered for the most severe cases” and the case was adjudicated by a higher-ranking officer than typical alcohol-related incidents.