The SA/SH statistics for USMMA are not comparable to the statistics for the other federal academies.

The administration has repeatedly made the claim that Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment rates at USMMA are worse than they are at the other federal academies. For example,

on August 2, 2016, Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen made the following incorrect and unsupported statement:

“The ‘14 report of the gender survey that was conducted by the Defense Manpower and Data Center, the DMDC, shows that the Merchant Marine Academy rape and sexual assault, and harassment are the highest of the five service academies.”

See transcript, at pdf pp.3-4.

The simplest way to understand why comparing the SA/SH data from USMMA with the SA/SH data from the other federal academies is wrong and dishonest is to use a baseball analogy:  It would be dishonest to describe a baseball player who struck out 50 times as having a worse strike out rate than a second player who struck out 40 times – if the first baseball player had twice the plate appearances as the second.

Here’s why the SAGR (“Sexual Assault and Gender Relations”) survey for the Academy is not comparable to the SAGR surveys of the other federal academies:

The SAGR surveys for the other four federal academies were administered in April 2014 and ask the cadets/midshipmen about incidents of SA/SH “since June 2013.” (See p.770 of the pdf.)  Consequently, those cadets/midshipmen are responding on the basis of an approximately 10 month period.

This is the part that MARAD won’t tell you:  By contrast, at USMMA, the SAGR survey (with the same “since June 2013″ time frame) was given to a portion of the student body in April 2014,  a second portion in August 2014, and the rest of the student body in November 2014.  Consequently, the exposure period for reporting SA/SH was almost doubled for those midshipmen who took the survey in November 2014. And, although you cannot trust the administration’s numbers, as we demonstrate here, according to the administration, 125 of the students took the survey in August 2014 and 34% of the midshipmen (183) completed the survey during that November 2014 sampling period. (See this post for citations for the dates and number of midshipmen who took the survey on those dates.)

So, just as in our baseball analogy, you cannot compare the USMMA SAGR survey results to the other federal academies; and, it is dishonest for Jaenichen to make the statement quoted above when he knows*** that the results are not comparable. Indeed, it seems likely that if the data could be adjusted to account for the fact that fully a third of the USMMA midshipmen were reporting SA/SH incidents over a 17-18 month period rather than a 9-10 month period, USMMA’s rates would be lower than all of the other federal academies.

MARAD no doubt banks on no one digging into their misstatements. Certainly the Washington Post falls into that category, and it appears that Secretary Foxx assumes he has been told the truth by MARAD all this time. Like children who start with one lie and then lie more and more, the leadership of MARAD and the academy have long ago lost their way regarding their duty to at least tell the truth.

DOT has made policy decisions affecting the quality of the education our midshipmen are receiving and endangering  the ability of many midshipmen to graduate on time based on this and other dishonest data disseminated by MARAD. That is a level of malfeasance that borders on the criminal.


*** We do not use the word “dishonest” lightly. The difference between the USMMA SAGR survey period and the SAGR survey period for the other federal academies is identified in the administration’s interpretation spin of the SAGR results (at p.12 of the pdf) as a “caution” as to why the results are not comparable:

“[T]he USMMA results include a longer timeframe as a reference for some of the questions (June 2013 to November 2014 as opposed to June 2013 to May [sic, April] 2014) for those Midshipmen who were surveyed in November. Prevalence rates might be slightly**** higher due to the longer timeframe.”

Thus, Jaenichen, who relies upon this exact document in the quotation at the beginning of this post, is willfully ignoring the caveat and falsely stating that the document “shows” that the SA/SH rate at USMMA is the highest of the five federal academies. And, as we have shown here, here, here, here, here, and here, this administration has been anything but honest when dealing with the sea year stand down cancellation.


**** Some may try to seize upon the word “slightly” to claim that Jaenichen is justified in making the comparison. But, the document in which “slightly” appears was drafted by the administration, not DMDC.  We don’t know what cautions the actual DMDC SAGR survey report used because the administration refuses to release it — even though the same report for the other federal academies is published on the DMDC website.