Andrew Blake, Washington Times, May 11, 2016
The 16 black West Point cadets who caused a stir after posing for a photograph with raised fists won’t be disciplined over the image, the U.S. Military Academy said Tuesday.
An internal investigation launched after the snapshot surfaced online has ended with authorities deciding not to discipline the cadets, but to offer them additional counseling ahead of their graduation on May 21, West Point’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., said in a letter to the academy’s student body this week.
“While the inquiry did not find that these cadets violated a policy or regulation, it did determine that they demonstrated a lapse of awareness in how symbols and gestures can be misinterpreted and cause division,” he wrote on Tuesday to the Corps of Cadets. “The impact of this photo, regardless of its intent, is evident. It is unfortunate that this perception brought attention to our Alma Mater for all the wrong reasons.”
The subsequent investigation determined that the photograph was taken April 26 during an “Old Corps” photo shoot–“a long-held tradition at the Academy,” according to Brenda Sue Fulton, a West Point grad who currently chairs the academy’s Board of Visitors.
“Different teams and groups get together on their own to mimic the high-collar, ultra-serious, photos of 19th century cadets,” she told Army Times recently.
“As members of the profession of arms, we are held to a higher standard, where our actions are constantly observed and scrutinized in the public domain,” Gen. Caslen wrote. “We all must understand that a symbol or gesture that one group of people may find harmless may offend others.”