Two Coast Guard Academy cadets disciplined for harassing black classmate

New London — Two Coast Guard Academy cadets are being disciplined for harassing a black classmate.

At a cadet conduct hearing on Thursday, Capt. Melissa Rivera, commandant of cadets, determined that the two cadets, who are white, violated the cadet regulations in an incident last fall involving the Mississippi state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem.

The academy announced Rivera's decision Thursday night in an email to The Day via spokesman David Santos, who declined to list the specific punishments but said they range from demerits and marching tours to campus restrictions.

"We will never have effective teamwork without respect. Any act that erodes respect will erode trust. And without trust, we cannot have mission effectiveness," Rivera said at the end of the hearing, according to the email from Santos. "The appropriate way to have discourse on issues is through respectful discussion. You are doing this in the classroom. You can do it with each other."

The black cadet was in his room with his roommate, one of the two white cadets, doing homework when the other cadet entered the room and played a song that academy officials said romanticizes the South and that many find offensive. The black cadet left the room to seek advice on how to handle the situation, and when he returned he found that the background to his laptop had been changed to the Mississippi state flag.

Two separate investigations were launched — one by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and another by the academy. The academy announced in December that a Coast Guard investigator recommend the two cadets be disciplined.

Just days after the incident occurred last fall, Superintendent Rear Adm. James Rendon held an academywide meeting to denounce racist behavior on campus. The incident happened about a month after The Day published a report about allegations by minority cadets of widespread discrimination at the academy.

j.bergman@theday.com

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