A comment from a female member of the Class of ’92

This was submitted as a comment to the Open Letter from a Midshipman.  I think it is important enough that it merits being given its own post. I edited it to add paragraph structure, correct a few typos, and to hide some personal identifying information (shown in brackets).

I sailed as a cadet on 6 vessels for [three different companies]. I sailed on tankers for about 10 years after graduating. Since leaving sea I have spent 14 years working for three oil companies and a government agency. My point is, I can speak from experience about SASH both at sea (cadet & licensed) and onshore.

I experienced SH offshore once as a cadet and once as a seasoned [licensed officer]. In both instances the situation was dealt with swiftly and sternly. The other 99.9% of my sailing experiences are great memories. I was always treated well by my shipmates and always felt protected by them in places like Columbia and Chile as well as the coal docks of Baltimore.

Then I went into the corporate world. Years of SH turned into stalking. I had to park in different places, vary the hours I arrived and left, I ate lunch at my desk. After 2 years of stalking I quit. At my exit interview HR advised me to move as they couldn’t do anything about what happened outside of work since I no longer worked there. I did move.

The point of this is to show that I can speak about SASH from experience, both as a Midshipman and corporate veteran. There is so much more SH “in the real world” than on ships. The handling of such incidents are also much less tolerated onboard then shoreside.

What should be done is to teach Midshipman (male and female) how to respond and handle SASH situations before and after they happen. Sea year has always been a time when Midshipman are given great responsibility and gain tremendous self-confidence that will benefit them the rest of their lives. By sheltering them at the Academy the message becomes one of hide and avoid rather than face and tackle. It also doesn’t address the SASH that takes place at the Academy (as well as the other academies and most US universities). By not also stopping commercial cadet training at state academies it shows that it is yet another attempt to discredit and choke the Academy to a slow death. Reinstate commercial cadet training and give people the tools to overcome challenges, don’t teach them to run away and hide.


  1. Thank You. Another woman officer that the Academy can be proud of and someone I suspect I would want my own daughter to emulate.

    I have been saying this since the start of this mess. Even taking the Academy at its word and assuming SASH is a problem, the solution is NOT to remove women from commercial ships. It is to INCREASE The number of women on commercial ships. Don’t let the bullies at sea win.

    If one were to look at this in the context of civil rights for women, let’s compare it to the civil rights movement for other groups in history and you will see that standing down is never the answer.
    For example, Martin Luther King was pretty much begged by both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson at different points to basically “stand down” and not to march in places like Mississippi. He ignored those requests and didn’t cancel any marches because he knew that doing so would have been a victory for the racists.
    When the armed forces were integrated there were problems. Was the integration order reversed or delayed while those problems were solved or did the leadership double down to solve them. (BTW, if abuse and harassment were a reason to stand down, the first African American major league baseball players would also have been the last)
    Recently, gays were permitted to serve openly in the military. I am sure there were and are some problems with homophobia but nobody has asked our gay service members to stand down until the problem is solved. The same holds true for all women in the military.
    Simply put there is no other area or profession that I can recall in which any so called disadvantaged, victimized, marginalized or minority group– be they gay, African American, Hispanic, women or any other group–has ever been asked or in this case “ordered” to give up their jobs, stop their educations or possibly delay their graduation while the “problem” is addressed. It would be morally wrong and reprehensible to make that request or issue that order. Yet, that is what is being done to the mids at the Academy.

    If SASH at sea is a problem, punish the offenders, not the mids. Whatever you do, don’t back down, or in this case “stand down”. It doesn’t work. Learn from the past.

  2. Thank you. This article rings true and is well stated. No matter where we go or what we chose to do the risk is always there. that being said sea year is so very important. Locking mids away in a tower till things settle down helps no one!

  3. I wrote this to the reporters at Newsday who wrote the article in today’s edition:

    Dear Ms. Ferrette and Mr. Brune
    I read your article today about Sen Gillibrand’s visit to Kings Point. There is a real story to be told here that I hope you will look into and report on.

    The Academy was put on Warning by the Middle States accreditation body for failing 5 of 14 major criteria. None of these had to do with SASH or academics. Accreditation and SASH are two totally separate issues. Every one of the deficiencies reported by Middle States is related to mis-management by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) in Washington and by the Academy administration. There is strong evidence that MARAD is using SASH as a smokescreen to divert attention from its incompetence which led to the Middle States warning.

    One deficiency listed by Middle States is in regard to hiring of professors. Department Heads at the Academy cannot hire their own professors, nor can the Academic Dean. This hiring is done by an HR group in Washington. Other problem areas cited by Middle States involve micromanagement from D.C. regarding budgeting, planning, HR in general and procurement. All of these functions are administered from Washington. That is what Middle States is concerned about. In fact Middle States has high praise for academics, and especially Sea Year which they specifically noted to be a unique and outstanding part of the curriculum.

    We are all concerned with SASH, but the statistics you cite are not accurate. The survey that provided that data has been debunked as being skewed and totally different from similar surveys conducted at the other four federal academies This resulted in casual comments being categorized as sexual harassment. These type comments were not considered sexual harassment in the other surveys.

    As I said, there is a real story here……it is one of gross managerial incompetence which led to a federal academy being threatened on its accreditation for the first time in history.

    I would be happy to provide you with copies of the Middle States report and other documents regarding this situation.

    Thank you
    R.P. Curt
    USMMA ‘72

    • Excellent comments…hopefully the authors of the Newsday article will follow-up on your suggestion. Unfortunately, it will be hard to reverse the momentum of the misinformation generated by MARAD/USMMA management intended to divert attention from their lack of leadership that caused the problems leading to the accreditation warning.

  4. Bravo Zulu to this fellow alumni. Her points are well made and show once more that there is an agenda at MARAD that has not been revealed. We only know that damaging Kings Point and the midshipmen is ,somehow, in Mr Jaenichen’s best interest. How sad when it is his legal obligation to enhance and grow the Academy. Why are you doing this Mr. Jaenichen? Why are you not able to respond to direct questions from Congress? What are you afraid of, I wonder?

  5. Running away from sexual harassment is not the answer. It is the responsibility of the leaders in business to address this issue head on. Great letter from the the KP class,of 92! Put the cadets back to sea. Class of 1976.

  6. What a positive suggestion is included in this letter. We had superficial, but effective self-defense classes as plebes presumably to combat physical assaults ashore with thieves, muggers, etc.

    A sexual self defense course could go a long way in helping both males and females understand professional “personal space” in a legal context and provide concrete steps to take with various different kinds and situations of SA/SH both reporting procedures and personal safety procedures. My vision is a mature, proper course with case studies guest speakers, and practice in uncomfortable conversations.

Comments are closed.