Bruce Fleming said it: 8 Naval Academy criticisms from a newly fired professor
By CHRISTINA JEDRA | The Capital | Published: August 24, 2018
Bruce Fleming, who spent 31 years teaching English at the Naval Academy, has not shied away from criticizing the institution.
The tenured professor said he was fired last week after students complaints were filed against him. Fleming said he believes the academy just wanted to get rid of one of its most vocal critics for things he has said.
The academy won’t comment on Fleming’s departure citing a policy against publicly addressing personnel matters.
Here are on some of Fleming’s boldest criticisms over the years:
Taxpayers aren’t getting enough bang for their buck at military academies.
“The service academies are hideously expensive and don't give taxpayers any extra defense for their dollars,” Fleming wrote in a Baltimore Sun opinion piece in June 2017.
“The academies cost us almost half a million dollars per student. This is about four times what the average ROTC student costs, and eight times what the average Officer Candidate School student costs. For no better product.”
Naval Academy midshipmen are not, as the administration says, “the best and the brightest.”
Fleming, who has served on the academy’s admissions board, has complained for years that he believes admissions officers assign lower standards to applicants who would satisfy non-academic needs for the institution. The academy has denied this.
“About 20 percent of our class consists of students recruited for athletics or given preferential admission to achieve racial goals (meaning non-white), and cannot get in even at the low level of SAT scores of 600 on each test with As and Bs in high school,” Fleming wrote in The Federalist in October 2017.
Officers that midshipmen are supposed to emulate “are fairly clueless and, according to the students, generally not very good role models,” Fleming wrote in the Federalist.
“What the officers say to students frequently makes no sense: the training staff pitches the same full-bore fit at small infractions as at large. Plebes are told they have ‘just killed a platoon of Marines’ if their uniform is out of reg. They know it isn’t true, so they tune out the adults shouting at them.”
Service academies are “vanity projects of the military brass” that don’t necessarily make the nation safer.
“They’re like all those military jets the current cabinet members love to use: flashy, expensive, and lots of fun. The superintendent lives in a Victorian mansion complete with waitstaff and has a reserved parking spot when he has to go two buildings over. The institution is the staging ground for their retirement ceremonies and funerals, and countless empty colloquia all based around the ‘leadership’ we purport to teach but don’t,” Fleming wrote in The Federalist.
Service academies don’t need to exist at all.
“The service academies are holdovers from the 19th century, when they were virtually the only avenue for producing an officer corps for the nation’s military and when such top-down institutions were taken for granted,” Fleming wrote in a New York Times op-ed in 2010. “But the world has changed, which the academies don’t seem to have noticed, or to have drawn any conclusions from.”
Midshipmen are “cast members in a military Disneyland run for the benefit of the brass and the tourists.”
“It’s the necessity of the brass to keep the lid on the place and make it look squeaky clean for tourists,” Fleming said in an interview with The Capital on Thursday.
Naval Academy standards are lower than they seem to outsiders.
“We claim to promote fitness but then refuse to throw out students who repeatedly fail to pass physical tests,” Fleming wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012. “Gone are the days of ‘shape up or ship out’: Nowadays we ‘remediate.’”
The Annapolis community buys into the academy’s public relations strategy.
“I can’t win in Annapolis criticizing the Naval Academy,” Fleming told The Capital on Thursday. “It’s the local drug. It’s the source of football games. They love seeing plebes do push-ups. They love the parades, and they love the hype.”
He added: “Annapolitans don’t wanna hear Professor Fleming say you’re being fleeced, and your kids are completely unmotivated.”