Following a STARRS Town Hall meeting, a former USAFA Permanent Professor and Department Chair reached out to STARRS with concerns.
Six full Permanent Professors resigned from the U.S. Air Force Academy for the following main reasons:
- a dean of faculty with virtually no operational experience who was uncommitted to academic excellence and contemptuous of the Honor Code;
- a purposeful intent to establish low rigor majors to mirror the academic ability of intercollegiate athletes;
- the use of intimidation to silence full professors; a deliberate policy to accentuate the influence of civilian faculty to the detriment of military instructors; and
- an overall decline of academic quality available to cadets.
Two of the Permanent Professors explain why they left in the following statement submitted to STARRS:
“The departure of six Permanent Professors (PPs) from the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) between the fall of 2017 and the fall of 2018 was not due to any single incident or event but was certainly a final choice that many of us were brought to by years of
- poor leadership,
- outright rejection of institutional values,
- continual eroding of standards both in cadet classrooms and leadership environments, and
- unethical, vindictive actions engaged in by those placed in authority.
The Dean at the time, along with his predecessor, had given unprecedented influence to civilian professors at the expense of the traditional chain of command of faculty through Permanent Professors.
This fueled constant pressure to ease the robust core curriculum; a curriculum designed to not only provide a foundation for the rigors of their future service but also a challenge that would serve character building.
Prior to being selected to lead the faculty, the Dean had spent his years as department head ensuring that his program was as easy a path to graduation as academically possible.
His department’s environment was geared to business, recommending to their majors five years of USAF service followed by the acquisition of wealth.
His professors regularly bragged to colleagues that they did not ‘get involved’ with the honor code, looking the other way from honor violations.
Their academic major became the go-to program for the football team members and the largest major at the Academy.
An infamous news article at the time interviewed some of these members who shamelessly described their experience as, “It’s like being in high-school again.”
The Superintendent at the time had only one real passion: football.
Still known in the hallways, as “Coach,” it was little surprise that this Permanent Professor, who had only one single assignment outside the Academy in his entire USAF career let alone any of the measures of a successful Air Force officer such as IDE/SDE schools, was selected as the next Dean above many much more highly qualified candidates.
From the time he was selected, this Dean worked to lower the standards of his curriculum and put more power and governess into the hands of civilian professors.
From replacing an icon (The Airman) as the annual teaching award to creating the Faculty Senate, his time was marked by continual projects aimed at removing all vestiges of the Academy’s challenging military-focused education.
In the process, those who opposed these actions and directions were vilified publicly and professionally, with a record number of “Commander Directed Investigations” launched toward those who did not get in line.
In the final year leading up to the mass exodus, two widespread cheating scandals were uncovered and immediately placed under wraps by this Dean and his staff.
He was caught on a number of occasions lying directly to his Permanent Professors as he attempted to jam into place a scheduling system change that would have wide-reaching negative impact on the curriculum and military training environment and implement a curriculum change that was nothing short of a reduction in educational requirements.
In the face of this subterfuge, vindictive prosecutions, and a growing civilian faculty who cared only about education in their own disciplinary areas, it was a losing battle for those few who worked to maintain a rigorous military education environment.
In many ways, USAFA and its leadership (Deans, Commandants, and Superintendents) chased any and all higher education trends and novelty to mimic and adjust to the degrading general culture of our youth, attempting to implement programs and policies significantly jeopardizing the justification for a military academy.
This included easing academic course requirements and rigor, and allowing a terribly weak cadet honor system with a severe lack of cadet accountability, and ultimately justified dismissal from USAFA.
Wasteful programs, policies and studies were added and continued not based on any data suggesting something was originally wrong, or that changes were showing any improvement.
This questionable “mission creep,” fostered and approved by leadership, was an excessive blow to limited resources, and removed faculty and other mission essential personnel from bedrock core mission focus (educating and training).
The Air Force Academy has simply lost its way.
USAFA (and other academies) have adjusted to modern culture and trends, instead of holding strong to fundamental principles of a military academy.
The onetime principles for staff, cadets and graduates from the Academy was ‘Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.’
The Academy has compromised all three in the decisions it has made over the last 15+ years.
The current motto is to develop and graduate “Leaders of Character” for our Nation.
This more obscure motto now minimizes or removes any warrior ethos essence, let alone call for lifelong service to the military. It could be debated it promotes separation from the military at a graduate’s earliest possibility.
In the end, it was too much to watch and be a part of for all of us, whose pride in the institution was, and to this day, severely damaged.
The cost versus benefit of USAFA and other academies is severely in question.
A complete and thorough external review of not only USAFA, but all Academies is extremely warranted.
This is the only way these magnificent institutions can even attempt to get back on track.
The Academies’ internal culture, and protection thereof, even by military leaders, will never be able to accomplish it alone.”
Implications? The Academy is an incubator for officers that will lead other military members.
The Air Force Academy is one element of a greater concern: the radicalization of our armed services. STARRS (https://starrs.us) was created to stem and to defeat this radicalization.