Academy still faces religion and gender-bias problems

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A climate survey at the Air Force Academy shows there's room for improvement in areas of proselytizing and gender bias, as well as racial bias.

The report, released today, was based on a 40 percent return rate from the 4,595 cadets contacted, and 53 percent return rate from more than 3,500 staff.

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Among the findings:

— 141 cadets said they have been subjected to unwanted religious proselytizing sometimes, often or very often. Another 212 said they had been once or twice. Staff numbers were lower.

— 263 cadets said they were less accepting of bisexual men or women, 330 were less accepting of gay men and 268 were less accepting of lesbians since coming to the academy. The numbers were about half for those who had grown more accepting.

— 25 percent of civilian females said women received less favorable treatment in performance evaluations, and 27.5 percent of civilian racial minorities said so. Also, 33.3 percent of racial minorities among the civilian ranks said they received less opportunities for leadership positions; 30 percent of civilian women said this about themselves.

— Although sexual assault numbers were "too small to report," the survey found 43 percent of female active duty personnel at the academy witnessed sexist behaviors and 40 percent of women witnessed crude or offensive behaviors. With men, the ratios were 18 percent and 23 percent.

— 14 male cadets and 47 female cadets reported feeling in fear of their physical safety because of their gender; 23 felt in fear due to religious beliefs (13 of them Christians), and 13 felt in fear due to their race (8 being Caucasian).

— 46 percent of female cadets said they witnessed harassment or discrimination based on gender, and 27 percent of minorities said they had witnessed harassment or discrimination based on race or ethnicity.

— Those who have experienced some for of discrimination or harassment broke down this way: physical assault or injury, 42; terrorized or tormented, 54; threats of violence or stalking, 36; taunted or ridiculed, 235; humiliated, 171; oppressed, 85; persecuted or treated unfairly, 159; insulted or offended, 372; ignored, snubbed or excluded, 281; looked down upon, 304. Permanent staff's reports trended the same by category but at lower numbers.

Comments from cadets included on the survey:
"The treatment of women needs drastic changes. It's culturally acceptable to voice misogynist views."
"Constant cynicism and negative attitudes from some."

Comments from staff:
"Leadership egos that put self before service."
"Civilians not treated as viable members of the staff.
"Shelters the cadets, they are shown extreme leniency when they should be learning that actions have consequences."

Academy officials laid out goals that include:
— Improving respect for women, gay/lesbian/bisexual persons, and other minority groups
— Actions taken to address disparaging remarks
— Model appropriate behavior
— Combating proselytizing and pressure to engage in religious discussions
— Enforce standards consistently and equitably

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