Off-campus houses a long-standing problem for Naval Academy

Kendzior and her father said they want to use their voices to force change at the academy. In the lawsuit, she seeks academic credit for her time at the academy and unspecified monetary damages.

"The team houses are banned, apparently, for a good reason," Russell Kendzior said. "There is a reason why.

"We're not going to hide in the shadows. This is an institution we believed in."

The academy, through its counsel, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, has not offered a point-by-point rebuttal to Kendzior's lawsuit. Instead, he successfully pushed for a delay in the proceeding until a similar case was decided in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

At issue in both cases is whether senior military can be held liable for allegedly fostering an environment where servicemen and servicewomen are sexually assaulted. Plaintiffs in both cases contend that the senior military officials violated their constitutional rights.

In July, the 4th Circuit upheld a decision to dismiss the case that was being appealed. Rosenstein indicated in court papers that he would ask the District Court in Maryland for a similar ruling in Kendzior's case.

Housing rules

Much like sailors assigned to a ship, all midshipmen must live in Bancroft Hall, the massive dormitory in the Naval Academy Yard. Midshipmen earn liberty on some weekends, when they don't have to spend the night in the dormitory. They can go home if they live close by, stay with their sponsor family or visit friends — but they aren't allowed to have an off-campus crash pad.

Midshipmen's parents and sponsor parents are also forbidden to assist Mids in finding off-campus housing and aren't allowed to offer their own homes for partying. The Naval Academy's commandant of midshipmen, Capt. Bill Byrne, sent a letter to parents and sponsor parents last month reminding them of the rules.

Property management companies report a mix of experience with midshipmen. While one agent said roughly 10 midshipman call each year — and sometimes their parents try to rent on their behalf — another said that in nearly 30 years she's never been approached about such rentals.

A two-story house at the corner of Maple and Glen avenues, not far from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, sometimes held parties that attracted members of the wrestling team, some neighbors said.

Don Ames said a group of five or six midshipmen stayed at the house, which abuts his backyard, but he had no problems with the men.

"They came on the weekends and they played all sorts of games, Frisbee and passing the football, all sorts of things," Ames said. The midshipmen sometimes had their girlfriends over, but their fun appeared innocent.

"They horsed around and drank a few beers," he said. "They didn't cause me any trouble. In fact, I was cutting my grass one day and one of them came over and said, 'Here, I'll cut it for you.'"

Neighbors of the "black pineapple" house raised concerns about raucous partying, but some said the midshipmen kept the grass cut and cleaned up after themselves. Neighbors believed two different groups of Mids rented the house during successive school years.

W. Minor Carter, a prominent Annapolis lobbyist who graduated from the academy in 1962, acknowledges that he had an off-campus house with other midshipmen.

"It was a place to chill out and relax in private," he said, adding that it wasn't like the rowdy scene depicted in recent cases. He doesn't remember any hard liquor at his house, just beer.

Academy rules at the time were much stricter, Carter said. When midshipmen went out with their families to dinner in town, no one at the table — not even the parents — was allowed to drink alcohol, for example.

"In those days, there was a lot less freedom," he said.

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