The Wall Street Journal on Monday had a Page 1 feature story about the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. The reason for the story is to report the alarming news that the Corps is facing big changes being pushed by the new commandant Lt. Gen. John Van Alstyne.
The only problem with the story (which unfortunately is not available online) is that it could have been written when I was there 20 years ago. The Corps is always undergoing big changes.
Here is what Van Alstyne is demanding: He wants the cadets to spend more time studying and less time hazing freshmen. That's not any different. They have always stressed studying and have tried various methods of getting cadet grades up. When I was there we had three hours a night of enforced study time. If you had a big test the next day you were allowed to sleep in and skip morning formation. The cadets with the highest grades usually got the best assignments and were promoted higher than the rest.
The article claims that cadets get up at 5 a.m. every morning and go on runs. I recall setting my alarm for 6 a.m. and morning runs were only done once a week and were a good excuse to get out of going to morning formation. It is true that some cadets wouldn't get enough sleep and would doze off in class, but the smart ones would not schedule early morning classes and would go back to bed for a couple of hours after morning formation.
The article also notes that Van Alstyne cracked down on some cadets who were caught paddling underclassmen with axe handles. But that practice was forbidden when I was there and would have earned a suspension even back then.
I always thought the Corps changed significantly between my freshman and sophomore years. That was the year that a cadet who had concealed a heart condition from his superiors collapsed and died after a morning workout session. The commandant's office at the time came down pretty hard on us. Suddenly we were not allowed to make freshmen do more than a dozen push-ups at a time. We had to allow them to eat their meals - no more "fish bites" which meant three chews and swallow. Old Army was dead!
But in reality the Corps was still the Corps. Little things like that change all the time but the important things stay the same. This reporter obviously listened to too many old Ags who can't see the forest for the trees. When I read the story I see things haven't really changed that much after all.