USMMA suspends its on-board training program

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Posted on November 3, 2016 1:50 PM by

Paul Benecki

The United States Merchant Marine Academy issued a statement Thursday saying the academy is suspending training on active merchant ships until “it is satisfied that [Midshipmen’s] the training will take place in a safe environment. The full statement follows:

While the Department of Transportation (DOT), Maritime Administration (MARAD), and the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) have made consistent efforts to address sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus in recent years we have been grappling with appropriate ways to expand these efforts during the “Year of the Sea”, when Midshipmen are in off-campus training on US Merchant Navy ships. in activity.

The safety of these young women and men is our top priority, and USMMA refuses to serve midshipmen on these ships until it is assured that their training will take place in a safe environment.

At June 24 MARAD is organizing a call to action with the shipping industry to address these issues, as well as their overall safety, as we begin to develop a comprehensive plan that protects midshipmen.

We make every effort to ensure a graduation ceremony on time for all affected students.

A USMMA Sea Year program staff member declined to comment.

The academy has yet to release a detailed explanation of the reason for its decision, but the Maritime Administration – which oversees USMMA – said no specific incidents resulted in Sea Year’s suspension.

“There is no specific incident that motivated this action. . . Sea Year is a unique situation for these young men and women, and we believe there is still a need to address culture on board ships to better ensure that midshipmen are in a safe and respectful environment. . This is not just about sexual assault / sexual harassment, but an effort to ensure that the Year of the Sea is a suitable training and working environment for midshipmen, ”the Navy said. MARAD spokesperson Kim Strong in a statement Thursday.

Strong said graduation timelines will not be affected and midshipmen currently at sea will disembark and return home when they reach their next port.

A USMMA spokesperson said on Friday that more than 200 people were currently at sea, and on Monday the Academy clarified that different groups would be affected in different ways: “Anyone who comes back before the end of June will be running out of time. as expected [and] all 2017 and 2016 deferred aspirants will remain on their currently affected vessels. The academy will take care of all round trips.

The spokesperson confirmed that there had been no specific incident leading to the suspension of the program – rather the decision was the result of ongoing talks between the school, the Ministry of Transportation and MARAD.

According to the academy’s academic calendar, the 2019-B class was to be assigned to shipboard training on June 20.

USMMA’s 2014-2015 Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Preliminary Report for the 2014-2015 Program Year found that even after the implementation of new programs aimed at improving behavior and safety, some students and faculty ” still see and hear an overabundance of sexist behavior and remarks and recognize that many aspirants do not take training on the subject seriously. Aspirants see retaliation, accusations of perceived false reports, and damage to one’s career as daunting obstacles to feeling comfortable enough to come forward and report. ”

The report says USMMA intends to update its findings after analyzing another round of interview data, and the results were expected in spring 2016.

The Senate version of the MARAD Reauthorization Act of 2017, which will authorize funding for the academy for the next fiscal year, includes language requiring MARAD to “convene a working group to review methods to improve prevention and response to any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs during a [USMMA Midshipman’s] Year of the sea. ”

In an interview with MaritimeTV at the USMMA launch ceremony on Saturday, maritime administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen explained the reason for the temporary “deactivation” of Sea Year. “The decision we made is based on the conditions that exist, and it’s not just sexual harassment or sexual assault, it’s all around it – it’s harassment, it’s hazing is coercion, it is retaliation. It’s not a good training environment, and it’s just not the way we should treat people, “Jaenichen said. . “At the end of the day, we’re not trying to end the Year of the Sea – we’re trying to fix it.”

Jaenichen said his goal would be to enable midshipmen to learn their tasks and fulfill their requirements “in an environment that respects normal societal standards. And right now we have isolated incidents where this is not the case. cases … we “don’t put a question mark on the whole industry, these are just isolated incidents. ”

He said his administration owes it to “those mothers and fathers who entrust their children to us, to ensure that the environment in which we send them is an environment that [I] I would send my child to, if that was the case, and I don’t want to send someone else’s child in this situation. “

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