Naval Academy sets punishments to stop midshipmen from violating strict COVID restrictions
By HEATHER MONGILIO | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: March 16, 2021
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — The first time a midshipman violated the Naval Academy's rules intended to slow the spread of COVID 19 they face getting demerits, enough to be considered a major discipline offense but something like a parking ticket.
The offense will also mean the loss of a weekend of liberty when it is restored and an additional seven days of restrictions when they are eased, according to a memo approved by the academy on March 11. Second offense adds another 50 demerits, another week of restrictions and another lost chance to get off the Yard for the weekend.
Leaders of the Brigade of Midshipmen advocated letting the mids themselves stop classmates from breaking the restrictions, according to a March 11 email from Brigade Executive Officer Ashley Boddiford to members of the brigade.
But those tactics didn't work, leading the academy to issue a new violations policy with punishments spelled out.
"Our blatant disregard for the orders given to us by the Commandant of Midshipmen will stop today," Boddiford wrote in the email.
The brigade is facing penalties for violating the restriction of movement they have been in since Feb. 28 due to an outbreak of COVID-19. The academy could not say how many midshipmen were sick due to operational security, but nearly 200, at least 98 of them recovering from COVID-19, were moved into local hotels to expand quarantine and isolation space at Bancroft Hall.
While the midshipmen continue under the restriction of movement orders, which has paused Navy sports as well, they have been able to start receiving vaccines.
The memo on disciplinary measures, along with the email to the brigade and the "One-Stop-Shop ROM Guidelines," was first reported at USNA At Large, a Facebook page run by David Tuma. The Virginia resident is a retired Navy captain and academy graduate.
Cmdr. Alana Garas, an academy spokesperson, confirmed the legitimacy of the documents.
After the first violation, the punishments rise in the number of demerits, as well as the loss of liberty and restriction. A second violation earns 25 more demerits, takes away another weekend of liberty and adds another week of restrictions.
The first violation's demerits are almost equivalent to a parking violation. A midshipman could earn 25 demerits and a seven-day restriction period, according to the Commandant of Midshipmen Instruction from July 27, 2020.
Any additional violations of the restriction orders will each result in 50 more demerits plus a week of restriction and another weekend of lost liberty. Similarly, a second parking offense would be 50 demerits and a 14-day restriction.
Demerits affect a midshipman's conduct standing. Demerits below 50 are considered minor, while those up to 90 are major and at 100 are considered the worst.
Each semester midshipmen receive conduct grades, which are affected by the number of demerits a person receives over the semester. For example, a midshipman 1st class can receive no more than 25 demerits in a semester in order to earn an A, while a plebe, or freshman, can earn up to 30 and receive an A.
If a midshipman were to violate restriction protocols twice, the highest conduct grade the mid could earn is a B.
In order to ensure compliance to the restriction of movement protocols, members of the brigade, regiment and battalion staff and the watch chain of command will do rounds, with one between 3-7 p.m., which is the most populated time of the day, according to the action/decision memo.
Boddiford's email contained examples of protocol violations observed in the past week, including two midshipmen who were not roommates running, midshipmen entering rooms of other midshipmen and improper mask use.
The violations go against the midshipmen's mission, she wrote. Each midshipman must follow orders if midshipmen want to have a return to normalcy.
"We must each take responsibility for the state we are in," Boddiford wrote. "This is not the desired method, but we have expended our chances to be remediated any other way."
The One-Stop-Shop ROM Guidelines, which Boddiford attached to her email, were updated March 11. They continue what each midshipman can do at certain buildings.
For example, midshipmen cannot use self-serve laundry, interact with midshipmen who are not roommates or wear civilian clothes on the weekend in Bancroft Hall. They can use brigade laundry.
Midshipmen can grab food from King Hall, but they cannot eat it anywhere but their rooms, according to the guidelines. Midshipmen cannot go to the mailroom or use Naval Academy Business Service Division services.
The midshipmen are also only allowed a maximum of two hours outside, mostly for physical training.
Commuters who are living off-campus with friends, family or sponsors are also participating in the restriction of movement period. They cannot come to the academy grounds for food or for twice-weekly antigen COVID-19 tests. They instead will use credits known as COMRATS for food.
They can use the yard for physical therapy if they live within a mile from the academy.
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