As graduation ceremonies kick off this week at America’s oldest military academy, one of its most venerable traditions may be set to get a major face-lift.
West Point superintendent, Lt. Gen. Franklin “Buster” Hagenbeck, wants to make the academy’s most beloved songs gender-neutral.
The academy’s "Alma Mater" and its companion piece, “The Corps,” — a tradition for nearly 100 years — refer to the "sons” of the academy. Every graduating class since 1911has sung these songs, despite West Point going coed more than 30 years. Women were first admitted into the elite officer-training program in 1976, and more than 3,000 have since graduated to serve as Army officers.
Hagenbeck plans to switch the masculine words with more gender-neutral synonyms. “The men” would be changed to “the ranks,” and “we sons” would become “the Corps.”
Hagenbeck said it’s a change that has been a long time coming. “It just seemed out of step,” he told FOX News.
• Click here to see video of a West Point choir performing its "Alma mater."
Some female cadets object to the change and say they don’t want to come off as “whiners.”
But Hagenbeck said the reason for the change isn't coming from the female cadets, and is instead a commonsense move to change with the times, considering the role women play in today's military.
“When are they going to be recognized for what they’re doing?” he asked.
Hagenbeck has been discussing the changes with alumni, Army brass and current cadets.
The academy’s Board of Visitors, made up of presidential appointees and members of Congress, voted unanimously to back whatever decision Hagenbeck makes.
The proposed changes could be approved as early as June, but for now, the song remains the same.
Laura Ingle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.