[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?