I’m informed that Lisa Rein, the Washington Post reporter cited for repeated plagiarism is preparing another hit piece on behalf of the Maritime Administration. You may recall that Rein was the author of this one-sided piece that mouthed many of the talking points and agenda items of MARAD.
It sounds like the goal of the coming hit piece is to throw doubt on the upcoming independent study commissioned by the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Harassment sponsored by the USMMA Alumni Association and Foundation which will analyze SA/SH issues relating to the Academy. It is puzzling that the Washington Post would be taking such a strong interest in a study that hasn’t even been released yet. I wonder what MARAD insider planted the idea for this story. It will be interesting to see if Ms. Rein examines the unusual circumstances surrounding DOT/MARAD’s award to LMI of the contract to conduct a similar study and examines the lack of independence built into that study by virtue of the terms of the contract award — or whether her interest in any SA/SH studies at the Academy is one-sided and aligned solely with MARAD’s false narrative about SA/SH during sea year.
In any event, here are some questions a real reporter might want to ask in a story reporting on the SA/SH studies presently being conducted:
- In June 2015, your employer, The Washington Post, reported on a survey it co-commissioned with the Kaiser Family Foundation which concluded that at least 1 in 5 women college students (20%) were sexually assaulted during their four years at college. The 2013-2014 SAGR survey at the Academy concluded that 17% of all women at the Academy had been victims of sexual assault during a 12 to 18 month period. In the 2011-2012 SAGR survey, the figure was 14% of women (17 of 123 female midshipmen) suffering sexual assaults during a 12 to 18 month period. While even a single sexual assault is unacceptable, don’t the Academy’s statistics compare very favorably with the Washington Post survey? Therefore, an appropriate question would be,
“Hasn’t MARAD over-reacted by cancelling sea year when the Academy program, including sea year, is safer than attending many other colleges and universities across the country?”
- Here’s another good question:
“Given that accurate data is essential to fully understanding any SA/SH issue, why won’t MARAD release the actual reports issued by the Defense Manpower Data Center (‘DMDC’) like is done for the other federal academies that DMDC studies?”
(Hint, here’s a real story — get that data — MARAD is hiding it for a reason.) (There was a time when The Washington Post would have been interested in finding data that the federal government was improperly trying to keep from the public.)
- It has been irrebuttably established that the percentage of sexual assaults committed on women enrolled at the Academy that occurred during “summer experience/training/sea duty” declined from 58% (an estimated 10 of 17 total estimated assaults) in the 2011-2012 SAGR study to 33% in the 2013-2014 SAGR study (an estimated 6-9 assaults during “summer experience/training/sea duty” compared to an estimated 19-26 total assaults). So a logical question would be:
“Given such an improvement in reducing sexual assaults during “sea year” in only two years, why did MARAD
stand downcancel sea year?”
(Hint, there’s another story here, although I beat you to this one.)
- Although MARAD purports to want to address SA/SH at the Academy, it apparently will not cooperate with the independent study commissioned by the Task Force nor commit to full transparency and independence with respect to the LMI study. DOT said (see Second Amendment to the RFQ at pdf p.3) that the release of LMI’s report in its entirety, and “appropriate disclosure” will be determined by DOT’s general counsel and Public Affaris offices. Which makes this question inevitable:
“Why won’t MARAD grant LMI full independence in the study it is conducting and commit to full transparency with respect to the process, data and results of that study?”
Finally, MARAD gives tens of millions of dollars to the six state maritime schools and owns the six ships they use for training. Title IX (which applies to all of the state maritime schools) allows the federal government to halt federal funding to schools that do not adequately address SA/SH issues. The state schools have taken advantage of the vacancies on commercial ships left by the sea year stand down cancellation and continue to assign their students to commercial ships. MARAD considers commercial ships to be too dangerous to assign Kings Point midshipmen, yet continues to endorse and sponsor state schools doing the exact same training. So an enterprising reporter could ask the question that hundreds of midshipmen, parents, alumni and the entire maritime industry are asking:
“Given that MARAD is not addressing the assignment of state maritime school cadets on commercial ships, why should anyone believe that MARAD actually believes that there is an SA/SH problem on commercial ships.”
That naturally leads to some follow up questions:
“Why was USMMA targeted and its sea year curriculum on commercial ships cancelled with no regard for the damage to the USMMA midshipmen and their education?”
“Why has MARAD continued to endorse and support this same training for the state maritime academies that MARAD supports and substantially funds?”
Writing stories about SA/SH is low-hanging fruit. Ms. Rein could go into any workplace (including MARAD’s DC offices) and find stories about accusations of SA/SH. The abuse of power, the senseless impact of inexplicable government policies on innocent students, a venerable institution, and an entire essential industry, and the weaponization of SA/SH in a manner that will ultimately cause the public to view any legitimate SA/SH claim with skepticism are the issues that deserve Ms. Rein’s attention.
(Updated to clarify that the statistics regarding sexual assaults on women during “summer experience/training/sea duty” refer to percentages of total assaults reported in the survey [not percentages of female midshipmen].)