Road to the ring not an easy path

For some unlucky juniors in the Corps of Cadets, the cherished goal of finally putting on the traditional junior ring may have to wait.

According to these cadets, they are thwarted by a failure to meet certain requirements they think are unfair or should be changed.

Since the early 19th century, it has been a Norwich tradition for junior cadets to receive class rings. The coveted ring carries a lot of sentiment and reflects accomplishment, a representation of the three years completed, and graduation ahead.

But as with many things at Norwich, the junior ring is not given – it must be earned – and that means cadets have a list of requirements to fulfill before they can wear one.

According to Lt. Col. William Passalacqua, ’88, the NUCC Assistant Commandant and advisor to the ring committee, a cadet needs to have “a minimum of 73 credits (including transfer credits), pass a PT test, be in good academic standing, be in good cadet standing (i.e. not be on confinement status or have outstanding tours) and not have a pending disciplinary or honor action,” said Passalacqua. “You also can not have more than three class one offenses or more than one honor violation either.”

As the advisor to the ring committee, Passalacqua is responsible for advising the ring committee chair and vice chairs, overseeing the ring budget, committee elections, and ring design.

The criteria for qualifying for the ring may seem difficult to attain, but the head chair of the committee, Madison Miler, a 20-year-old studies of war and peace major from Long Lake, N.Y., said he thinks the qualifications required are reasonable. “I think they are a pretty good standard to go off of. If you really want your ring, it’s not hard to do.”

However, this year Miller said “a lot” of cadets are sending petitions to the ring committee to get their ring, despite not meeting the requirements. Since there are cadets that struggle to meet some of the requirements, Miller explained that feedback on the ring requirements are welcome.

“I think something a lot of people don’t recognize is they can come to each of the committee members, especially myself, because I can work with Lt. Col. Passalacqua and we can talk about the policy, but the policy is what it is this year,” she said.

Historically, she noted, previous committees never had a standard. But once rules were set in place, “it really set home to people you had to earn your ring, and just because you come to Norwich, and you’re an academic junior, you don’t just get your ring,” she said.

One of the requirements that some cadets are having trouble with is having 73 credit hours, which Miller said is one of the “most common” reasons for a problem.

Take Connor Guzda, a 21-year-old junior communications major from New Fairfield, Conn. He is three credits short and that is what might prevent him from getting the ring in April.

Guzda explained that his academic advisor is partly to blame for him not having enough credits to receive the ring on time.

“My academic advisor wasn’t really paying attention to how many credits I actually needed for the ring. This is a common thread across the board here where most professors aren’t really paying attention to that. All they know is, that they are trying to get you the classes and credits you need to graduate,” he said.

Guzda suggested that the academic advisors should be aware of how many credits a junior would need to get the ring.

“I don’t think the academic advisors are supposed to know that which is why I’m kind of in the middle of the situation I am in. In their mind, they think you can just make it up and carry 20 something credits like me in my upcoming senior year,” he said.

Passalacqua said that although the requirement is 73 credits, that is in fact not really “on track” for graduating, which is the minimum requirement to be academically classified as “J2” by the registrar’s office, meaning a second-semester junior.

“Even if you have [a] minimum of 73, it’s going to take you more time to finish your degree. You are most likely going to have to go to summer school if you have the bare minimum,” Passalacqua said.

However, Guzda doesn’t think it’s “fair” that he can’t get the ring because he is only missing one class. “They should look at the rule and if you have your academic advisor’s signature and you are on track for graduation you should be fine.”

Unfortunately for those in this situation, not having 73 credits is one of the requirements that is not eligible for a waiver. According to Passalacqua, cadets used to be able to petition and get a waiver for a short amount of credits.

“There was a time when you could petition for credits and it got very messy for the ring committee. Unfortunately, we’ve had many cadets who received the ring with less than 73 credits and did not return to Norwich,” Passalacqua said.

Part of the reason behind eliminating the waiver of the minimum credit rule is because once a petition for one person was accepted, it would result in accepting petitions for many more. “What you do for one, you do for all, given similar circumstances,” Passalacqua explained.

Although he is upset about not getting the ring on time, Guzda knows he takes some of the blame for this outcome. “Part of it definitely falls on me, but I never knew the actual ring requirements so I never started digging deep into it until junior ring came around,” he said.

Passalacqua suggests that cadets not worry about the ring, but focus rather on graduating on time. “You’ll receive the ring when you meet the requirements, so focus on graduating, getting good grades and not spending extra time at Norwich,” he said.

Passalacqua offers advice to those cadets that might be facing this problem next year, suggesting they be proactive.

“There are other people you can speak to if you are not comfortable with your advisor. Request a change or go talk to a professor you like and respect, speak to the department head. Don’t rely on one person if you’re not comfortable with your advisor,” he said.

Another circumstance that can prevent a cadet from getting a ring is being a junior in the corps and academically a junior, but not spending three years in the corps.

This is the situation facing Christian Torchon, a 23-year-old communications major with a minor in French from Los Angeles, Calif., and Katelyn Baumann, a 21-year-old sports medicine major from Stonington, Conn. The pair might not receive their rings this year.

Both Torchon and Baumann started their freshman year at Norwich as civilians, and then joined the corps their sophomore year. Now they are juniors academically, fulfilling the credit requirements but do not have enough years as a cadet.

According to Torchon, he “fits the requirements,” but currently he is one credit under. Torchon explained that this will be resolved before April.

“The credits are because of a class that didn’t go through so all I have to do is the makeup work to get the credits for that class,” he said.

Torchon wants to get the junior ring this year because each ring carries the class year on it. His academic class year is 2019, which is part of why he wants this class years ring. “If I wear a class of 2020 ring, that’s not my ring,” he explained.

Torchon said that although he wants to get the ring this year, there are students in his class who aren’t keen on the idea. “I have peers in the junior class saying, I’m not really in their class because I wasn’t in their rook class. Even though I’m walking the same graduation and hopefully commission, they don’t consider me their class,” Torchon said.

Torchon also said that while the junior class doesn’t accept him getting a ring, the sophomore class doesn’t either.

“Because I was an academic sophomore during Rookdom, my rook siblings don’t see me as part of their class, it’s like I’m this hybrid, that’s not socially accepted by both sides,” Torchon said.

Baumann, who faces the same issue with not enough time in the corps, meets most of the other criteria as well. “I have 75 credits with this school. I have all the military sciences, I’m on track to commission with the Air Force and I’m going to field training this summer,” she said.

Currently, Baumann doesn’t know if she is getting the ring this year, blaming a lack of communication. “It’s hard to get in contact with the ring committee because the one person I talked to had a negative view and turned me away. I wasn’t able to get any more information on who to talk to. It’s hard for me to get that information because I not in the junior corps class,” she said.

Baumann expressed the view that she should be able to get the ring. “We’re graduating the same year, we have the same level of education, so if I’m a junior, and other juniors are receiving their ring, why can’t I?”

Unlike Torchon, Baumann said that the rook class they both share is very “welcoming” of her getting her ring with either the class of 2019 or 2020.

“They still want me to at least be there when I receive their ring but they completely understand my drive for wanting to get my 2019 ring,” she said.

According to Passalacqua, the thinking is that a cadet has to “do their time” in the corps. He said that the committees feel “strongly” about cadets completing three years in the corps so a waiver for this is very unlikely.

Baumann suggested that the corps should rethink that policy when deciding if someone should get the ring. “I think the corps should be a little more open to the fact that not everyone is going through the same process as them,” she said.

The third issue that junior cadets may encounter is passing a physical training, or PT, test. This is only waivable if there is a legitimate medical issue.

One junior in the corps, Linda, who wishes to remain anonymous, may be able to get a waiver for not passing the PT test. She said she feels she has a valid reason.

“This year I’m unable to take a PT test because I have a serious knee condition that possibly requires surgery at the end of the year,” she said.

When a student can’t take the PT test because of injury, certain modifications to the test can be made such as bicycling or swimming. But that isn’t possible for her. “I’m unable to take any sort of aerobic PT test. I can’t do swim, or walk, or anything so it really limits me on what I can do,” she said.

Passalacqua knows about Linda’s condition is legitimate. According to Linda, she has an orthopedic doctor that comes every week to the Norwich infirmary and medically updates Passalacqua on her knee condition.

“I’ve already talked to Passalacqua and several people on the ring committee board, it is pretty much a guarantee I will get it, I just have to get through the process, which is in itself nerve-wracking,” she said.

Linda explained that although this process isn’t easy for her, she has been shown support for not only the process but her knee condition.

“Passalacqua has been amazing. He has 100 percent supported my efforts in getting better and the ring committee has been amazing. They have been able to walk me through the process and explain what’s going to happen and in general put my fears to rest,” she said.

Passalacqua explained that if a cadet has a medical issue, they file a petition to their ring committee. “It’s possible the committee will say ‘okay you can get your ring because you demonstrated freshman and sophomore year that you passed the PT test,” he said.

But Passalacqua also explained that if a cadet in previous years could not pass a PT test, it’s probable they won’t get a waiver. In circumstances such as Linda’s, exceptions can be made, but cadets wanting the ring can’t rely on that. Essentially, a cadet has to put the work in and fulfill all the requirements if they want the ring on time.

“In the end, the committee doesn’t deny the ring, they just deny when you receive the ring. So when you’ve earned it, you can receive it,” Passalacqua said.

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