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Take These Wings

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The next day, Aek e-mailed Andrea that he wanted to meet with her. Andrea went to her Air Officer Commanding, Major Russell Meyer, instead, and also sent a letter to Byerley. In response, the professor scheduled a class meeting for April 18 to discuss group dynamics. The cadets took turns talking about how they could all put their differences aside and finish the semester. But when it was Matt's turn to speak, he spent 45 minutes questioning her about how she came up with the engine drawing. He asked her the same questions again and again, and she repeated what she'd told him before again and again: that she cut and pasted the liner from the other group's drawing and then modified it to fit into her own. Nothing Andrea said seemed to satisfy him, and out of exasperation she finally exclaimed, "I drew it!"

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.

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.

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon