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Congratulations to our First Place Scholarship Winner, Ellen Matheson

Posted  March 20, 2020

Last September, Constantine Cannon announced a scholarship for law students, to be awarded based on essays addressing the importance of whistleblowers, the whistleblower experience, or whistleblower law and policy.  We announced our five winners in February, and today are pleased to share the first place essay, submitted by Ellen Matheson.

Ms. Matheson is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, where she was the Honor Board president.  At West Point, and in her experience as the Honor Board president, Ms. Matheson learned, and witnessed, the importance of institutional enforcement of ethical behavior. Ms. Matheson’s essay demonstrates, however, that even institutions with strong ethical codes face challenges.

While cadets are taught that it is a violation of the Honor Code to tolerate violations by other cadets – that is, cadets have an obligation to speak up – she said that during her time, she did not see any Honor Code cases involving a failure to report, despite the fact that cadets certainly witnessed Honor Code violations.

Ms. Matheson’s piece speaks to something many whistleblowers struggle with: the tension between the obligation to speak up, and the obligation to be faithful to your team.  When a fellow officer reported academic cheating in an officers’ course, Ms. Matheson recognizes her as someone with “uncommon courage,” and writes:

With this act, she reminded us all that camaraderie and honor are not mutually exclusive obligations. The Soldier who “has your back” is not the person who looks the other way when you cut corners; instead, the Soldier you want next to you in battle is the person who consistently reminds you to do things the right way. The moral way. The only way our military can and should succeed in battle.

We congratulate Ms. Matheson, along with all of our other winners, and wish them the best in their legal careers.

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