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Superintendent reviews semester highs, lows

"State of the Academy" forum addresses priorities to staff and faculty

Staff Reports from Pointer View

Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. hosted a town hall forum Jan. 8 at Robinson Auditorium to review the fall semester, reiterate his priorities and present his expectations for staff and faculty.

The top two priorities established at the beginning of the academic year has been to eliminate sexual assault and harassment at the academy and promote honorably living.

Caslen said working with cadets to develop internalization of values is important to achieving those priorities by developing leaders of character as defined in the mission statement.

“The mission statement is tremendously important to all of us leaders up here because it drives everything we do here, to educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets so they will be leaders of character,” Caslen said. “You notice it does not say physical leaders, military leaders or intellectual leaders. They will be leaders of character because they commit to our values of Duty, Honor and Country and are prepared for a career of excellence as an officer in the Army.”
Last semester, the academy joined the national “It’s On Us” campaign that focuses on raising awareness about sexual assault on campus. Caslen said this focus is not only on the Corps of Cadets, but on staff, faculty and everyone employed at West Point.

“We have a little twist on this now that our nation has removed the combat exclusion law,” Caslen said. “Not only is it our responsibility as leaders to create climates that eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assault, but now we have a leader development responsibility because with the removal of the combat exclusion law, every one of our cadets will graduate and then go into a mixed gender organization. No longer do they have the luxury to sit back and say that it is somebody else’s problem.”

Cadets must be able to prepare and present a command climate where everyone is respected, treated with dignity, feels they are physically and emotionally safe and can contribute to the team.

“That is what we define as that type of organization where we see each other as teammates and not as a different ethnicity or gender,” Caslen said.

Caslen updated staff and faculty on sexual assault statistics, trends that have caused concern and results from a cadet survey. More information will be made public when the Department of Defense’s Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies is released at the end of the month (http://www.sapr.mil/index.php/annual-reports).

Caslen said when the Army bolstered its efforts to combat sexual violence years ago, it provided a lot of training events for its Soldiers. The downside to this became gender avoidance and that’s something USMA must also address.

“I will argue that the type of teams we want to build is where everybody feels comfortable and respects each other as teammates,” he said, “Gender avoidance is not a team you want to be a part of.”

Caslen said the good news is that the Corps understands a culture change is needed and cadets are accepting responsibility.

“West Point has vastly improved (sexual assault/sexual harassment) prevention and I honestly think it’s going well, but if you look at the stats we still have some work,” he said.

If ending sexual violence on post is the superintendent’s top priority, then the internalization of values which will inspire honorable living has become his main effort. When values are deeply-rooted Caslen said, “it becomes part of our very essence so that when we find ourselves in a compromising situation, we do not have to think about what right or wrong is; it is an automatic reaction.”

The end state is when people’s values reflect what they do both privately and publicly. Caslen said inspiring honorable living requires open, honest dialogue that promotes introspection and reflection.

“A lot of our cadets are motivated, unfortunately, on fear of consequence,” Caslen said. “So then if I fail to obey the Honor Code, I fear that I may be separated. That may motivate them; that’s how I was motivated when I was a cadet many years ago. This is my No. 1 effort—to engrain within the Corps of Cadets, and maybe in all of us, to live honorable lives “State of the Academy” forum addresses priorities to staff and faculty in everything we do.”

Caslen also spoke about a survey conducted in March 2014 with cadets, staff, faculty and coaches that revealed a little more than half of the Corps has internalized the spirit of the Cadet Honor Code by graduation. Toleration of cadet violations was found to be a major concern. Caslen encourages everyone, cadets, staff, faculty and coaches to confront potential honor violations knowing that the case will be fairly executed.

A willful admission, or self-reporting, process has been designed and approved by the superintendent to address toleration and build trust in the developmental nature of the Cadet Honor System.

There are certain criteria to self-reporting. Cadets must be forthright and sincere, demonstrate a desire for rehabilitation through the honor mentorship program, not have had a previous honor violation and recommended for retention through the Corps by the honor committee and the chain of command.
Academically, USMA was ranked the second best liberal arts college by U.S. News and World Report in 2014 and the third-best engineering program in America.

Caslen said he was proud that cadets surveyed for the Princeton Review earned the faculty here best in the nation. Forbes named USMA the top public college in America.

“Excellent ratings from very prestigious sources ... you have all made an impact to have made this happen,” Caslen said.
The Class of 2014 was a banner year for scholastic achievements, and USMA historically ranks high among Rhodes and Marshall Scholars, although none were awarded to cadets this academic year.

Developing a winning culture, Caslen said, is about weeding out mediocrity—whether it is on the playing field or in the classroom, in an office or a chain of command.

“Where mediocrity occurs, we have to find it and root it out because our cadets deserve the best,” Caslen said.

A winning culture isn’t winning at all costs, either. “It’s winning in accordance with our values, winning in accordance with ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ and winning in accordance with who were are,” Caslen said.

From a leader development perspective, Caslen said if cadets know what it’s like to build a winning team and contribute to it, it becomes an attribute they bring with them throughout their careers.

The forum began with a recognition ceremony presenting 64 certificates of appreciation or coins to members of various departments for outstanding performances during the fall semester.

Superintendent’s Priorities

• Sexual Harassment/Assault/Command Climate: Develop leaders who lead with command climates of dignity and respect, where everyone on the team feels value added, and feels secure both physically and emotionally. Ensure that climate exists at West Point.
• Honorable Living: Develop leaders who live honorably 24/7, who have internalized the values of Duty, Honor, Country and the values of our Army. Ensure that climate exists at West Point.
• Winning Culture: Develop a culture of excellence and winning in everything we do. We will win honorably, not changing our standards nor who we are.
• Diversity: Build and retain a diverse USMA team both within the Corps of Cadets and the staff and faculty. Develop and maintain a culture of inclusion among our teammates.
• Leader Development: Build the intellectual, military, athletic and character models that develop our graduates to thrive in tomorrow’s security environments.
• Outreach: Continue to build our partnership with New York City.
• Beat Navy!