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].)
In my view, it is somewhat difficult to ‘connect the dots’ of this ongoing saga – if one considers the following as essential elements of the underlying probblem:
1) The basic leadership shortcomings leading to the five deficient management areas cited in the MSCHE report
2) SASH concerns and the distortion and diversion of the management cabal to take the spotlight off those basic management problems
3) The standoff between MARAD/Superintendent and the Alumni Association and Foundation and competing on-going evaluations
4) The passivity of the Congressional Board of Visitors and the dismissive attitude of the DOT as evidenced by their answers to the questions submitted to the BOV
5) The adverse impact of all of the above on the Regiment and, more particularly, on those classes impacted by the cancellation of the Sea Year
To some degree, the various inputs to the KP Sentry, including your excellent analyses, reflect the fact that, despite a lot of constructive dialogue, there is currently no evidence that all of the good work being done by various supporters has been translated into a unified position that can be used effectively by a supportive U.S. Congressman, e.g., Peter King to provide a unified position to oppose the misleading and self-serving information being disseminated by the DOT/MARAD.
Who represents our position in the war-of- attrition currently underway, e.g., he KP Sentry, the Alumni Association and Foundation, maritime unions, the press, midshipmen, parents, bloggers, etc.?
In the absence of a strong and visible spokesman for our cause, the advantages accrue to the DOT/MARAD which is determined to succeed in its objectives and, based on their success to date, most likely will prevail.
Who, specifically, is leading the effort? If no one in a credible position of authority has been selected to lead a unified effort why not?
If the reporter really wanted to do her job, she would also go to the campus and ask women mids if they themselves are happy with the stand down and how it is affecting their education,their finances and their career training.
As someone who has had some experience handling press relations for political organizations and individual politicians over the years, I think I know what might work from a public relations point of view, although I have been attacked by some for suggesting this before. I really think the best way to end this is for the women mids now at the academy to publicly stand up against the stand down. Unfortunately, I also understand why they would be reluctant to do so. I know that the fear of retribution, warranted or not, is very real among the mids that I have spoken to.
The women mids could only do this if there was a significant number willing to go public with how the stand down is hurting them. The male mids would have to be willing to stand with them publicly as well, but the women would have to take the lead. I know it’s not fair, but we have to change the perception that somehow the stand down is “protecting ” these great young women. They have to speak for themselves and the guys have to back them up just as openly. From a public relations point of view, it’s all about the optics.
The alumni association is doing a great job, but MARAD simply portrays them to the press as a bunch of old timers who don’t “get it”. The parents organizations are too disbursed across the country to reach a critical mass with any single politician.
On the other hand, the women mids at the academy are all in one place (except for those at sea). They also represent the future, not the past. They are the “critical mass” that those who oppose the stand down needto become the face of the opposition. MARAD could never portray them as people who just “don’t get it.”
I also think that if done after the elections, some pols may be able to be willing to take on the issue if supported openly by the female mids, but right now, nobody wants to be portrayed as being supportive up “SASH”.