ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The head of the U.S. Naval Academy said Wednesday, May 12, the school would adapt if the military repeals its ban on gays serving openly, because the academy has adjusted to big changes before and basic respect among students is crucial to success.
"There was a time minorities weren’t allowed here," Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler told reporters. "There was a time women weren’t allowed here. There’s been many changes over the years, and we follow the law."
The superintendent pointed out that students already come from all over the nation from a great variety of backgrounds.
When he came to the academy in 1974 from Bismarck, N.D., he noted he lived with two students, one from inner-city Pittsburgh and one from Baltimore.
"We needed to get along, and we were certainly different people, so a lot of it was just basic respect and that’s really what we teach across our midshipmen," Fowler said.
Fowler also noted that the rigors of academy life require students to trust and help each other.
"You cannot get through here without your classmates and that will continue forever," Fowler said.
All of the academy’s 4,400 midshipmen live in one dormitory, and women started attending the academy in 1976.
President Barack Obama has said the 1993 "don’t ask, don’t tell" law unfairly punishes patriotic Americans, and he has asked Congress to repeal it.
Earlier this month, senior Pentagon leaders warned Congress not to change the ban until they can come up with a plan for dealing with potential opposition in the ranks.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates supports lifting the ban, but he wants to survey the troops first to get a better idea of how it should be done.
Gates has ordered a study by Dec. 1 that will examine whether housing arrangements would have to be altered.
Fowler spoke to reporters during a regular briefing he holds near the end of the school year. He talked about a variety of changes that have happened during his tenure, which began in July 2007.
The academy has made big gains in diversity initiatives since his arrival. Minority applications for the class of 2014 were the most in the school’s history, with 5,379.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 14, 2010.