Secretary Foxx issued a halt to the Sea Year program for Midshipmen at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) after incidents of bullying, coercion, sexual harassment and assault continued despite consistent efforts by the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Maritime Administration (MARAD), and the USMMA to address these issues. While the Sea Year program has partially resumed, the more we dug into the problem, the more evident it became that the inappropriate behaviors we are trying to stem at sea cannot be addressed without addressing the campus culture. The Secretary is interested in a transformational change at the Academy, one that creates a culture that protects these young women and men and ensures respect for everyone. By bringing in outside experts experienced in examining and assessing an organization and its culture to look at the Academy, he intends to find a way forward to correct these serious issues.
The Academy has taken numerous steps to address the ongoing challenges in the interim:
- USMMA hired a new Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC).
- Established an Academy sexual assault review board that meets monthly and includes senior leadership which oversees implementation of the action plan.
- Implemented a restricted reporting system similar to the one used by the military to provide more avenues for victims to report assaults or harassment
- Implemented a new prevention training program that raises awareness and clarifies where victims can report assault or harassment.
- Training members of the Academy faculty, staff and Midshipmen on sexual assault and harassment (99 percent are trained)
- Developed a special training for Midshipmen before their sea year commitment
- Implemented a special training for incoming Plebe Candidates before they join the full student body
- Established a 24/7 Hotline for reports of sexual assault.
- Reviewed and updated its procedure for reports of sexual assault occurring while Midshipmen are at sea.
- USMMA contracted with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) for surveys and focus groups as are conducted at the other four service academies.