Controversy surrounds the ring

Forty-three years ago, David Whaley received his Norwich University cadet ring in the mess hall, alongside the rest of the class of 1976.

“Receiving the ring was about being welcoming and forming a bond of a class,” said David Whaley, vice president of development, alumni relations and communications, Class of 1976, and a former NU Class Ring Advisor.

Throughout the years that Whaley has attended and worked at Norwich University, the requirements and the formality of the NU cadet class ring have changed.

“There was not a physical fitness test to pass, a certain number of credits or a number of semesters in the corps. We were much more open back then,” Whaley said.

The change in the process and increasing formalities have created an issue this year for two second-year cadets who are academic juniors and took a non-traditional route to the ring. Uproar over the approval caused the cadets to ask The Guidon not to use their names in this story.

“Two second-year cadets submitted a request for a waiver based on the fact that they were academic juniors but entered the corps in a non-traditional way,” said Col. Michael Titus, 55th Commandant of the Corps of Cadets.

Traditionally, Norwich University cadets enter the corps their freshmen year as a rook, where they receive training from upperclass cadets on what it means to be a cadet, until they get formally recognized as a cadet in the spring semester and then continue as cadets until their senior year.

It was in 1923 that the NU cadet ring, commonly referred to as the “junior ring,” began when the senior class adopted a class ring for each member who would graduate, and the process of ring design and presentation shifted to the junior year, according to the Norwich University website.

“In this case, these two cadets completed their freshmen year as civilian students and entered the Corps of Cadets their sophomore year. They petitioned to the ring committee to receive the Class of 2019 ring this year,” said Lt. Col. William Passalacqua, the assistant commandant of cadets, who graduated in 1988 and is current cadet ring committee advisor.

“Their petition was denied by the ring committee,” Passalacqua explained. “Every person who petitions has a right to appeal and they took advantage of the appeal. I received the appeal and gave it to the commandant.”

“I receive appeals all the time for the ring and the MCV (Military College of Vermont) diploma. Most are denied because cadets cannot waive the listed requirements in the rules and regulations to receive the ring or MCV,” Titus explained, “This case was different.”

To receive the NU cadet ring, cadets must have met all the seven eligibility criteria, according to Section XXVI, Part G in the NU Student Rules and Regulations.

Cadets must be in “good academic standing,” have completed a minimum of 73 earned academic credits, completed five semesters in residence as a member of the Corps, have passed or received credit for three progressive semesters of ROTC coursework and be currently enrolled in at least the fourth semester of ROTC, meet the physical fitness test technical standard, complete all punishment awarded by disciplinary or honor action, and have no pending disciplinary or honor action at the time of receipt of the ring and have made payment in full to the contracted ring company for the ring(s), according to the student rules and regulations.

“I reviewed their record including searching for any disciplinary files and all the requirements to receive the ring,” Titus said, “I consulted with an alum who knows the process very carefully and has been involved in the ring for a long time and he recommended that I approved it.”

The approval wasn’t on “what they wrote in their appeal” or speaking with “anyone outside this institution about these two individuals,”he said. The cadets were on “the same track but in a different way” and that based on their cadet file “if we waived the requirement they were going to represent the corps and the future properly,” according to Titus.

When word of the two second-year cadets, but NU juniors received approval for this year’s NU cadet ring, the Corps of Cadets reacted quickly with emotion towards the cadets and the decision overall.

“I did not realize at the time how much comotion the corps would stir up about it,” Titus admitted. “I understand the emotion involved, but the reaction is shortsighted.” Also, graduating from a military university and experiencing the camaraderie with your fellow cadets and the symbolism created within the ring, having “that ring on your finger goes further than your time here,” according to Titus.

“The ring committee gets together and designs the ring and of course there will be a lot symbolized on the ring that has to do with the hardship and things you had to do as a rook, but the ring is not a symbol of your rook class. It is a symbol of your graduating class,” Titus explained.

Passalacqua agreed with Titus.

“In the end, when we are all wearing the ring, we will be sharing our unique Norwich experience,” Passalacqua said, “When I see a Norwich ring on someone, I expect honor, integrity, courage, a leader, and person of character because wearing the ring exemplifies what it means to be an NU cadet and be great alums.”

These two cadets are not the first cadets to have a non-traditional route to receiving the NU cadet ring, according to Whaley.

“I have a friend of mine that is an NU alum and he transferred in later than me but wears the class of 1976 ring because he graduated with me,” Whaley said, “If he came in and did rookdom with me or came in a year later as a sophomore and got recognized just like I did, what difference does it make?”

From his time a student in the late 1970s to advising the cadet ring committee for eight years in the 1980s and early 1990s, the requirements and formality are new to the original ring tradition, according to Whaley.

“We didn’t differentiate between how many semesters you’ve been in the corps versus how many you have been in the school,” Whaley explained, “The ring was pretty much for any academic junior and we look at people that transferred into our class not any different.”

“There are still non-traditional routes to being successful and productive members to the corps and our ultimate goal is NU graduates and alumni who live the Norwich guiding values,” Titus explained. “These two students are examples of these non-traditional paths.”

The decision to have the two cadets receive the cadet ring should not be an issue for those juniors receiving the ring this year, according to Passalacqua.

“Look at your own performance, conduct and how we wear the ring because the ring is just a piece of metal. The person who is wearing the ring is what really matters.” Passalacqua explained, “Do they exemplify the guiding values of Norwich University and as a cadet that encourages honor, temperance, and wisdom.”

Whaley completely agreed with Passalacqua. “The ring is not about your rookdom experience, it is about your Norwich experience and bonding a class,” Whaley said, “The ring is a sense of accomplishment that you’ll be a part of a continuum of men and women that went through an experience similar to yours.”

When the class of 1923 began the tradition of the NU cadet ring, the ring was meant to mean as “much to the man wearing it as his diploma and once the custom is started and lived up to every year, the alumni will appreciate more and more what a ring of this nature stands for,” according the 1923 Class Mission Statement identifying the goal of this new tradition.

The Class of 1923 has taken and made the Norwich ring a true Norwich tradition.

“I know (juniors) will be proud of the ring because it has your symbols on the side, but you should more proud of the other side because now you are forever apart of Norwich University,” Whaley said.

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