Here are the steps KP must take to remain accredited (updated)

[update: Please read “Comfortably Numb’s” insightful explanation of what Standard No.2 requires in the comments. ]

The administration blamed the Middle States accreditation warning on alleged problems with SA/SH during sea year. I’ve shown that the Academy’s own SA/SH studies do not support such a claim and instead show that there is a problem with midshipmen-on-midshipmen SA/SH – whether on or off Academy grounds. (In other words, the Academy has the same problem that exists across the spectrum of colleges and universities.) I’ve also shown that the reason MSCHE placed the Academy on accreditation warning was not due to SA/SH during sea year and that the Administration’s effort to shift the focus to sea year was part of a false narrative created by the Administration.

Despite all of this, the administration insists that midshipmen cannot go back to sea on commercial ships until a study of the culture at the Academy has been accomplished. Why is this necessary when Middle States set forth specific requirements that the Academy needs to meet and did not include such a study as a requirement? The requirements imposed by MSCHE are spelled out in the accreditation report and must be met by March 1, 2017 (as I explained here).

So here are the specific standards that the Academy failed and the requirements and recommendations that MSCHE listed to address those failures.  There are “requirements”, “recommendations,”  and “non-binding findings for improvement.” Given such language, I assume that “recommendations” are very strong “suggestions.” In other words, ignore them at your peril.  The following (other than the “Comment by KPS”) are taken directly from the MSCHE accreditation team report:

Standard 2: Planning, Resource Allocation, and Institutional Renewal:  “An institution conducts ongoing planning and resource allocation based on its mission and goals, develops objectives to achieve them, and utilizes the results of its assessment activities for institutional renewal. Implementation and subsequent evaluation of the success of the strategic plan and resource allocation support the development and change necessary to improve and to maintain institutional quality.”

Requirement imposed by MSCHE to meet Standard 2:

“The institution must demonstrate resource allocation decisions that are directly linked to mission and goal achievement at the institutional and unit level, including Human Resources, Financial, and Procurement”

Comment by KPS: The main thrust of this requirement is to eliminate micromanaging by MARAD. So what has happened in the meantime?  The Department of Transportation has taken over micromanagement of sea year and determined that sea year will not resume until a study of the “climate” for SA/SH in the marine industry is completed (and presumably not until whatever recommendations coming from that study are implemented).

Standard 3: Institutional Resources: “The human, financial, technical, facilities, and other resources necessary to achieve an institution’s mission and goals are available and accessible. In the context of the institution’s mission, the effective and efficient uses of the institution’s resources are analyzed as part of ongoing outcomes assessment.”

Requirements imposed by MSCHE to meet Standard 3:

“The Secretary of Transportation must initiate and lead an effort to ensure statutory and regulatory change is made by Congress so that the annual budget is available to the institution at the start of the fiscal year.”

“The Superintendent does not currently have direct control over the hiring process for faculty and staff. The Superintendent must have the authority and responsibility, assigned or delegated from DOT and/or MARAD as appropriate, to ensure adequate faculty, staff, and administration to support the institution’s mission and outcomes expectations.”

Recommendation made by MSCHE:

“The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and the Information Technology Department require more formal and direct integration with the Academy’s mission and strategic plan.”

Comment by KPS: The first requirement is that the Secretary of Transportation lead an effort to get changes made to the statutes that hamstring the Academy’s budget. Those were put in place due to past problems with the Academy not keeping to its budget. It doesn’t require that that SECDOT succeed; just that he lead an effort.  One way for SECDOT to lead in this effort would be to get the Academy’s 17,000 alumni behind him.  Despite the administration’s burning of bridges with respect to sea year, with a little bit of effort, Secretary Foxx can still get the alumni with him on this.

The second requirement can be accomplished by SECDOT with the stroke of a pen. Let’s see some Acta, Secretary Foxx.

Standard 4: Leadership and Governance: “The institution’s system of governance clearly defines the roles of institutional constituencies in policy development and decision-making. The governance structure includes an active governing body with sufficient autonomy to assure institutional integrity and to fulfill its responsibilities of policy and resource development, consistent with the mission of the institution.”

Requirements imposed by MSCHE to meet Standard 4:

The Superintendent does not currently have direct control over the institutional functions of personnel hiring, financial planning and management, and procurement. The Superintendent must have the means, authority, and responsibility, assigned or delegated from DOT and/or MARAD as appropriate, over the institutional functions of personnel hiring, financial planning and management, and procurement required to effectively and efficiently accomplish the Academy’s mission.

MSCHE “Non-binding Finding for Improvement (Suggestions)”:

“Consider more effective ways to increase the communication of information between the USMMA leadership and staff, faculty, and midshipman through more frequent, informal interactions.”

“Use the Advisory Board to the Secretary of Transportation to gain needed additional resources and regulatory changes.”

“Consider creating a governing board consisting of representatives outside of USMMA that have a statutory and/or regulatory role in the operation of the Academy and that acts to assure institutional integrity and supports the institution in policy and resource development.”

Comment by KPS:  I think this last recommendation by MSCHE is very astute. Look at how other universities are set up. They have a Board of Governors, typically composed of: people of prominence in the university’s spheres of influence and/or academia; a faculty representative; a student representative; and an alumni representative. These Boards set policy, oversee the budget, approve tenure, etc. The university provost (Superintendent) answers to the Board of Governors. What does the Academy have? The Maritime Administrator (a political appointee), answerable only to the Secretary of Transportation (another political appointee), sets the policy, oversees the budget and, according to MSCHE, is micromanaging the hiring of faculty. The Superintendent (provost) answers to these two political appointees. This top-down management by political appointees is what must change if the Academy is to be restored to the great institution that it once was.

Standard 5: Administration: “The institution’s administrative structure and services facilitate learning and research/scholarship, foster quality improvement, and support the institution’s organization and governance.”

Requirements imposed by MSCHE to meet Standard 5

“The Director of Institutional Assessment, Director of Admissions, Academic Dean, Chief Financial Officer, Human Resources Officer, and other key administrator positions are all currently vacant or occupied by interim staff. While some of these positions, such as the Academic Dean, are filled on an interim basis with highly qualified, skilled and dedicated individuals, the Academy must move forward with permanently filling these critical positions with administrative leaders who possess the appropriate skills, credentials, and training.”

Recommendations made by MSCHE:

“The Superintendent, along with the Deputy Superintendent and the Academic Dean, should  initiate meetings with midshipmen to learn about their experiences on campus and their concerns in both student-life and academics areas.”

“A periodic review (every 2 years) of the administrative structure should be put in place. The review should be directed at assessing the effectiveness of the administrators as well as the administrative procedures in place. Mechanisms for reacting to lessons learned from the review should also be instituted.”

Comment by KPS:  There is no reason that these recommendations cannot be implemented promptly.

Standard 9: Student Admissions and Retention:  “The institution provides student support services reasonably necessary to enable each student to achieve the institution’s goals for students.”

Requirements imposed by MSCHE to meet Standard 9

“To improve the safety and climate of respect that all midshipmen encounter during the Sea Year experience, the institution must take demonstrable steps in preparation for and upon return from the Sea Year experience.”  (Emphasis added.)

“The pervasiveness of sexual harassment on campus must be addressed as a pressing and substantial concern that has fostered a hostile environment for many cohorts of midshipmen. The institution must implement specific steps to build a climate of mutual respect and trust among midshipmen, faculty, and staff with respect to sexual assault and sexual harassment.”

Recommendations made by MSCHE:

‘The Academy must establish a mandated training program for all employees that nurtures understanding, prevention, remediation, and eradication of current incidences of sexual assault and harassment, and stalking.”

“The Academy must make every effort to disseminate information on sexual assault and sexual harassment policies, prevention mechanisms, important term definitions, available campus resources via every available medium from Course Catalog through website to flyers and frequent face-to-face and online training.”

Comment by KPS:  The sea year stand down cancellation was, as I explained here, a step backward in encouraging reporting of SA/SH during sea year.  The “climate culture” study is likewise a distraction from what the Academy must do to address the MSCHE concerns. The first thing the Academy should do is complete the remaining third of the 44 self-imposed action items to address SA/SH that it failed to complete by its November 2015 deadline. Simultaneously (and as recommended by MSCHE), the Academy should take a serious look at how it communicates with the midshipmen on the subject. Let’s start by comparing how the U.S. Naval Academy addresses SA/SH on its website (and dive deep into that link to see all the things it is doing). Then compare it to the Academy’s website.  Impressed?  Neither am I.  That doesn’t mean that Kings Point isn’t taking other steps; but, one way to build trust with the midshipmen and show that the Academy takes SA/SH seriously is to demonstrate that commitment on the website.  And, since we know that alcohol plays a significant role in SA/SH at the Academy (as it does at most colleges and universities), what is the administration doing to teach midshipmen about alcohol consumption? There’s nothing on the website. Is it all lectures? Is the Academy doing anything innovative in this area such as what is being done at Annapolis?


  1. The step-by-step presentation of the actions necessary to remain accredited is excellent. In addition, the “Comments of KPS” make it difficult for the Academy leadership to avoid their responsibilities. However, I think that the comment “It doesn’t require that SECDOT succeed; just that he lead an effort,” (Standard 3 KPS Comments)provides unwarranted wiggle room to the Administration.

    • It may indeed provide wiggle room, although it may be that wiggle room is more for Congress than it is for the Secretary of Transportation. But, although I add editorial comment, I’m trying to point out the actual language and, it is what it is. If I were MSCHE, I would be looking for proof of that effort. One thing that Secretary Foxx can do to demonstrate leadership is be more transparent. The statutory changes are not something that need to be accomplished in the proverbial smoke-filled backroom. We’ve got a Congressional Board of Visitors who are interested in the Academy. We’ve got more and more Members of Congress taking interest because of the colossal mess created by the sea year stand down cancellation. We’ve got alumni engaged. So Secretary Foxx can demonstrate real leadership here and put in motion the things that need to be done. Unfortunately, there are other agendas at play. I suspect that Leadership doesn’t want the alumni involved because the alumni may seek changes that the Administration doesn’t want (such as a requirement that the job description for the Superintendent position be restored to what it was before it was rewritten and Helis was hired [i.e., restored to require experience in the maritime industry]). Certainly the disdain shown by the Leadership to the alumni at homecoming suggests that it does not welcome our oversight or assistance.

  2. In order to save Kings Point, you should be appointed interim managing CZAR until the mess is straightened up. If Hellis and his henchmen are successful in shutting the place down, perhaps the USMMAAF can purchase it and operate it as intended. The US Govt. sells abandoned properties at fire sale prices. If privately owned and operated, we wouldn’t need to care about accreditation. KPS

    • Thanks, but as I have tried to make clear, I am just the face/voice of KPS. There are lots of people in the background — alumni, parents, midshipmen, and even government employees who just want to do the right thing — who are contributing in many ways but can’t be given credit for fear of retribution. And much of what is being done in the background will never be made public.

      I’m fortunate that I’m my own boss and not beholden to the government for any of my work, so I can afford to be the communicator.

  3. As a current midshipman at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, I can attest to the fact that their is a growing discomfort among the student body at Kings Point as to where the administration is headed. As a midshipman who is nearing completion of my cadet sea time (I am only beginning to scratch the surface), I realize there is an understanding of what us merchant marines do that cannot be understood by anyone else but fellow mariners. Whether it is shown or not, the student body at the Academy is grateful for the effort that the alumni association gives to push the Academy in the right direction. Many of my classmates as well as myself hope to see many of the changes that the alumni seek to implement happen at the Academy in the near future.

  4. Nice job on all of these MSCHE related points. Having been on the inside for an entire career I can say first hand that none of this mess is a surprise. As far back as I can remember many of us on the inside were stunned over and over again by MSCHE (as well as USCG) when their “audits” would flyby at 30,000 feet and miss the obvious. This time they came in for a landing and guess what they found; the obvious.

    With respect to Standard #2 I would submit that the MSCHE is looking for something a bit different from what you describe. Actually they are looking for institutional assessment in their words. This means a living system that defines its goals and then shows how it did or did not arrive at the goal and more importantly shows how the budget and spending are closely aligned with those very goals and the strategic plan. Feeble attempts were made at KP in this direction back in the early 2000s. The feebleness was directly related to the belief that MSCHE was flying at 30,000 feet. Then the climate got a bit tougher and an Office of Plans and Assessment was created but it had a staff of one and had no authority or power. Attempts were made by this office to show that each department (USNA calls them “cost centers”) had living goals and plans to meet them, metrics to measure progress or the lack thereof and a system to institute corrective actions as required. All of this was demanded by MSCHE, was spelled out by MSCHE and was being done by other schools accredited by MSCHE. This was not a heavy lift, the pony was available everywhere you could look! But within the institution there was nothing but resistance, right at the top from Superintendents who would not be comfortable with chains like these to a Dean who thought he should run the entirety of Institutional Assessment even though he was only the head of the Academic Division, a small piece of the bigger pie. The heads of departments dragged their heels every step of the way and who could blame them? They had no reason to believe things would change and that budgets and spending would actually be tied to strategic plans. So the real issue in Standard #2 is Institutional Assessment and tying the financial actions to the strategic plan and “cost center” goals. The whole process is to be internally monitored and corrected as needed. Outside audits are to come in and look at this internal process. KP has failed to set up such a process and MSCHE caught them.

    On a final note, it seems clear after all these years that any and all attempts to ask people for solutions who are the very same people who created and continue to create the problems is nothing short of insanity. The folks running KP these days, the folks at MARAD and the folks at DOT are all the wrong people to ask for solutions. They do not have solutions, they are the problem.

  5. Get this done and restore the sea year as it an intregal part of preparing for their future. My granddaughter is a success today as a result of her training and experience during her sea year.

  6. The MSCHE recommendation under under Standard 5, “The Superintendent, along with the Deputy Superintendent and the Academic Dean, should initiate meetings with midshipmen to learn about their experiences on campus and their concerns in both student-life and academics areas” is a non-starter. In my many contacts with midshipmen only a small number indicate a willingness to to speak candidly with the superintendent, the deputy or the commandant. The rest have little confidence in the leadership and believe that retaliation will be rained down on anyone who fails to parrot the party line.
    We’ve seen the anonymous midshipman on Maritime TV who obviously chose to hide his (her?) identity for fear of retribution. The female midshipman whose letter was posted yesterday chose to remain anonymous, too. And just above is a post from Anonymous ’18, another midshipman unwilling to have his or her identity revealed. I hear from numerous midshipmen that they are afraid to speak up. Likewise many parents are reluctant to complain to their congressional representatives for fear of retaliation on their son or daughter.
    Midshipmen and parents simply don’t trust the academy “leadership.”
    Now the commandant wants to scramble the companies. Other than breaking up friendships and the sense of solidarity, this only serves to further alienate the students. In short, the MARAD and Wiley Hall crowd have lost the regiment.
    If this were an athletic team, we know what would happen: the manager or head coach would be shown the door.

Comments are closed.