USAFA Staff Investigated for MRFF Complaint?

The Associated Press has distributed an article indicating the military is “investigating” the US Air Force Academy for issues with its accreditation.

A document obtained by AP says the Air Force inspector general ordered a formal investigation into complaints that the academy’s dean and vice dean of faculty gave incorrect information to the Higher Education Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The document says the vice dean was accused of making “a false official statement” and the dean was accused of “inaccurately portraying” faculty credentials.

“The document” appears to be the response by the Inspector General to the two complainants.  The two are reportedly anonymous, though one self-identifies as an Air Force officer, faculty member, and Academy graduate.

In the Inspector General’s letter to the complainants, Col. John R. Taylor, director of Senior Official Inquiries, notes that a complaint analysis has been conducted into the allegations…

“As a result of that analysis,” Taylor writes, “the Inspector General has directed a formal investigation into your case…”

The AP article said

The complaint that triggered the investigation alleges that about 60 percent of academy cadets who took introductory calculus classes between 1996 and 2006 were taught by instructors who did not have master’s degrees in mathematics, statistics or mathematics education.

Interestingly, noted MRFF activist and now-former USAFA faculty member R. David Mullin publicly filed a complaint over this precise issue just a few months ago (and one of his co-plaintiffs in the ill-advised Mullin v Gould was an anonymous active duty, USAFA graduate faculty member).  (Mullin previously tried to distance his association with the MRFF from his complaints.)  It seems “the document” in question was provided to, and thus announced by, the Colorado Springs Independent‘s Pam Zubeck, who also publicized Mullin’s original complaint.  Zubeck has been a virtual PR arm of the MRFF.  Notably, at the time her CSIndy article on this topic was the only one featured on the MRFF website that had no public connection to the MRFF.

The impetus behind the complaint (or, more importantly, its publicity) is likely evident.

This has all been discussed before.  It seems the “embarrass” step of the Weinstein Method has been put in use, after critics were burned in losing the latest in a string of lawsuits against USAFA, and Weinstein having the USAFA door closed in his face after losing his self-described “bat signal.”

As previously discussed, Michael Weinstein has frequently taken to “throwing mud against the wall and seeing what sticks.”  Notably, Mullin’s original complaint included not only accusations of inappropriate credentials, but also broad, unrelated accusations of Constitutional violations.  If Mullin’s missive was, indeed, the source complaint, it would seem some of his laundry list of unrelated accusations may have been filtered out and found unactionable.  The article neglects to mention that detail.

As noted long ago, IG complaints are generally win-win for Weinstein and his allies.  The complaint is free, and anyone can make it.  The military is obligated to respond (though how it responds is a point of debate).  If an investigation ensues, it isn’t public — but the critics will know about it, and they can choose to publicize it to try to humiliate their target, even if the accusation itself is never substantiated.

If the IG finds fault — any fault — the MRFF will announce a “victory.”  If the IG doesn’t find fault, they’ll cry foul, cover-up, and announce an upcoming lawsuit.  In every case, they end up diverting a significant amount of military resources to end-run the military in achieving their personal agenda of coercion.

Notably, Zubeck does a fairly effective job of painting the most dire picture, highlighting the fact General Dana Born and Col Richard Fullerton (the Dean and Vice Dean, respectively) could face

court-martial with punishment that includes dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and prison time.

That the investigation has barely (if even) started, and that such punishment would likely only be a response to evidence of an egregious level of malice, seem to be insignificant details.  In so doing, however, Zubeck effectively helps the critics achieve their objectives of embarrassing USAFA using information only the critics provide — and USAFA cannot rebut.

Keep in mind, too, the supposed “gravity” of these accusations, as evidenced by Zubeck’s ominous words.  General Born is reportedly being investigated for telling a reporter

“All the instructors we have, have graduate degrees in the areas they’re teaching or a related field.”

Likewise, Col Fullerton is reportedly being investigated for signing off on a report that said

All faculty members are required to have at least a Masters Degree in a field related to the discipline they are teaching.

These statements are apparently at issue because of accusations some faculty (according to Zubeck, “dozens”) have not had a Masters Degree in the disciplines in which they taught.  In fact, Zubeck specifically lists four instances (without verifiable details).  In all but one, the instructors taught a foreign language while having degrees in other fields.

And, thusly, Zubeck demonstrates a weakness in her journalism.

The report over which the IG is supposedly investigating Col Fullerton (available here) makes the following note:

Almost all USAFA civilian faculty members hold PhDs or terminal degrees in their fields, with the exception of a number of instructors hired by the Foreign Language Department for their demonstrated skill and experience in speaking, writing, and teaching their respective languages. [emphasis added]

That statement specifically references civilians, and there does not appear to be a similar statement about military instructors and Masters Degrees.  However, the same policy appears to be in place.  The USAFA Department of Foreign Languages website says it hires (emphasis added)

Officers with language qualifications (certified through the Defense Language Proficiency Test, DLPT) and a master’s degree (in any field)…

Thus, the Academy is publicly advertising the fact it is recruiting active duty instructors who are proficient in the language, even if they don’t have a related degree.  This may be due in part to the attempt to meet the mission needs of the Air Force.  USAFA has reportedly increased its number of foreign language instructors due to the increased importance of foreign language requirements in the operational Air Force.  In fact, the need is so great the site says

All Air Force officers with foreign language skills (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish) and a Master’s Degree already in-hand should contact us ASAP!

This does not so much contradict the Dean and Vice Dean as it may indicate the lack of a “qualifier” in their comments, which may or may not be necessary.  Remember, the two are effectively being accused of lying with the intent to mislead by making their statements.  Since the information was not only already public but was also excepted in the accreditation report, proving the two had an intent to deceive — a requirement of the charges raised by Zubeck — will be difficult.

Note that, according to the press, no one is investigating the quality of the USAFA education or questioning the wisdom of such instruction, even if the substance of the allegations is true. The only thing being investigated is the specific words two officers used.  Thus, the results of this investigation will have no (positive) impact on future mission accomplishment at USAFA.

Ironically (or not), CSIndy reporter Pam Zubeck may have a journalistic or ethical conflict of interest in this case.  The allegation against General Born is in reference to a CSIndy interview reported by Zubeck herself late last year.  It does seem a little odd that a General officer intending to “deceive” the public about USAFA’s credentials would choose a regional paper with a reported circulation of 36,000.

Given the relative unimportance of the factors in the investigation, the obscurity of the details, as well as the fact the investigation’s results will have no (positive) impact to USAFA’s mission, it is somewhat surprising an investigation was launched at all.  It is highly unlikely a reasonable observer would conclude the two officers were attempting to deceive with their statements.

None of this has anything to do with religious freedom, of course; then again, neither does Michael Weinstein or his allies, at least in an affirmative or positive sense.  For them, it is likely far more basic: They’ve been embarrassed in the news; someone has to pay, and it seems the critics are more than willing to drag USAFA through the mud to see their personal vendetta — or vengeance — through.

Weinstein long ago declared he “designed” his non-profit charity “for two things – litigation and agitation.”  The litigation by the former JAG has been a wholesale failure, at least if one measures success by victories in the courtroom.  (If success is based on publicity and fundraising, the result may be different.)  The “agitation” and attempted intimidation by Weinstein, seemingly joined on occasion by his allies, is fairly well documented, including the self-professed implication he would “utterly destroy[]” a critic by causing him to “lose everything he owned, everything his children might come to own, and everything any of them ever hoped to own.”

The point is clear:  Those who oppose Weinstein and his allies will suffer for it; just ask the Colorado Springs Gazette, Trijicon, and a random Jewish soccer mom, for starters.  As the USAFA staff appears to be discovering, they can expect “attacks” even from angles that have nothing to do with “religious freedom.”  Anything that embarrasses, impedes, distracts, or silences the MRFF’s critics will do.

Fortunately, General Gould and the USAFA staff appear to be holding firm in their efforts to do the right thing.  Hopefully, their example will be one for others to follow.