Take These Wings

Andrea Prasse was an honor student -- until she met the honor board.

Over the next few days, Matt continued to raise concerns about Andrea's work, so the professor and AOC told him to e-mail her all of his questions and allow her to respond in writing. She sent her responses to Meyer, Byerley and Major Scott Morton, an adjunct professor in AeroEngr 483. Meyer felt she'd exonerated herself, replying in an e-mail on April 25, "I am totally satisfied with your answers and don't see any honor implications coming from this. I will tell Matt that as well, and caveat that by saying that he can't go searching for lies in a statement just because you feel someone is lying."

As promised, Meyer wrote to Matt later that day. "I have had a chance to read Andrea's response to your questions and although I think that she is too emotional in some of her responses I feel that she is being 100% truthful here. Bottom line: I don't think that she has done anything wrong with the exception to not documenting where the engine parts came from to begin with," Meyer noted. "If you are not happy with her answers at this point, you cannot get someone to confess to something they just didn't do...just because the answers don't satisfy your intent. That is called badgering or coercing. Bottom line: You have two options at this point...1.) you can either live with it or 2.) send it to an honor clarification. Either way you need to get this behind you. If not...it will look as if you are turning this into a 'Witch Hunt.'"

Matt, a member of the 164-cadet honor committee, decided to call for a clarification. The May 3 meeting centered on whether Andrea had lied when she said she "drew" the engine liner. Even though Morton told the cadets at the clarification that the words were merely semantics, Matt and Aek still weren't satisfied and initiated an investigation.

Andrea Prasse wanted to be an Air Force pilot; now 
she just wants to be let go.
Peter DiAntoni
Andrea Prasse wanted to be an Air Force pilot; now she just wants to be let go.
Carol Prasse (left) has been fighting Andrea's 
disenrollment from the Air Force Academy.
Peter DiAntoni
Carol Prasse (left) has been fighting Andrea's disenrollment from the Air Force Academy.

Matt was still contacting Andrea, so Carol Prasse requested that Meyer issue a no-contact order and investigate the alleged harassment. But in an e-mail, Meyer told her the verbal warnings were enough. He'd spoken with a cadet human-resources officer who was investigating the harassment claim, Meyer said, and "there may be some harassment but it mostly stems from working in a group project together. The extent to the harassment that he can see so far is that Matt may not treat Andrea as an equal in the group setting. There are also times when he has been overzealous about contacting/talking to Andrea in the past. We currently see no indications that there is any stocking [sic] going on or that he intends to continue to apply pressure to her in any way shape or form."

Carol insisted that a no-contact order was needed, though, and the academy finally issued one on May 7. The next day, Andrea was formally charged with violating the honor code. But instead of just being charged with lying about how she'd created the engine liner -- the only issue raised during the clarification and therefore the only relevant topic, according to the Air Force Cadet Wing Honor Code Reference Handbook -- she was also charged with cheating. When she refused to sign the charges, the honor officers rewrote them to leave only the lying charge. Despite all the confusion, Andrea felt that the truth would eventually emerge. "I still believed in the honor system, because they tell you it works," she says.

Carol wasn't so sure. She called Brigadier General David Wagie, the dean of faculty, who told her he'd look into it. Brigadier General Taco Gilbert, then-commandant of cadets, got back to her on May 10. "He said he had Andrea's personnel file and that he was questioning her officership," Carol says. "My daughter had been harassed for six months, and no one did anything about it, and now he's questioning her officership? He told me she didn't get along in groups and that people didn't like her, including the class president. Why was he talking to the class president? What does the class president have to do with this?

"I proceeded to tell him about all the harassment she experienced, and he told me it was her fault -- that she put herself in that position because she didn't set clear boundaries and because she volunteered to be in Matt's group! So what -- she asked to be abused by this guy?" Carol recalls. "He said, 'If I walk down a dark alley with hundred-dollar bills hanging out of my pocket, it would be my fault if I got robbed.'" (That's almost identical to what Gilbert told Westword in January about a conversation he'd had with alleged rape victim Lisa Ballas. Partly as a result of those statements, Gilbert was removed from the academy and reassigned to a job in the Pentagon.)

Five days later, Andrea received an e-mail from one of the cadet investigators informing her that her case would go before a Wing Honor Board on May 21 -- just eight days before she was supposed to graduate.

In the meantime, Matt was still stopping by her squadron and asking Andrea's roommate about her, so she noted that in a formal memo to the academy. Meyer e-mailed a response on May 16: "Maj. Bennett, Lt. Col. Marselle and I met today to discuss what we are going to do about Matt's previous behavior. Bottom Line: We conclude that there isn't much we can do at this stage of the game. We all felt that although Matt's behavior wasn't justified last semester, you didn't establish boundaries to keep him at bay.

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