By hijacking the Congressional SAPR Working Group, MARAD creates a new reaccreditation risk

Why the hijacking of the SAPR Working Group could threaten the reaccreditation of USMMA.

On April 20, 2016, seemingly innocuous legislation proposed by MARAD was introduced in Congress as part of Senate bill S.2829. Ostensibly, the intent was to create a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Working Group whose purpose was to make recommendations to Congress as to how to address SA/SH at USMMA and during sea year. However, buried in the bill was the now notorious section 204(d)(6), which would have tasked the Working Group with “assess[ing] whether [USMMA] should continue with sea year training on privately owned vessels or change its curricula to provide alternative training.” That language would have given the Working Group a task that is far broader than just addressing SAPR. (A complete history of the last administration’s effort to switch the Academy’s curriculum to a training ship model can be found here.)

The USMMA Alumni Association and Foundation worked hard behind the scenes in Congress to call attention to this language and the problems it would create for the Academy. Of particular concern to Members of Congress was how section 204(d)(6) might impact the Academy’s reaccreditation. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) Accrediting team had placed the Academy on Accreditation Warning  due to leadership and governance issues. The governance issues included problems associated with the Academy being managed from afar by MARAD and DOT. Thankfully, MSCHE found the Academy’s curriculum — especially its sea year curriculum — to be exceptional.

In attempting to ensure that SA/SH issues at the Academy were addressed, Congress did not intend to make wholesale revisions to the Academy’s curriculum. Congress recognized that replacing sea year on commercial ships went well beyond improving prevention of and response to SA/SH during sea year. Section 204(d)(6) essentially threw out the baby with the bath water. And Congress was also sensitive to the idea that major modifications to curriculum were best left to educators rather than legislators – especially with MSCHE focused so intently on the Academy and concerned about governance from afar. Thus, Congress replaced MARAD’s version of section 204(d)(6). Congress deleted the directive to consider alternatives to sea year on commercial vessels. Instead, Congress directed the Working Group to study methods of improving the sea year experience as it related to SAPR.

That should have been the end of it. However, then-Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen, then-Deputy Administrator Michael “Anchorman” Rodriguez, and Superintendent James Hellis weren’t done with trying to advance their agenda of switching the Academy from sea year on commercial ships to the state maritime school training ship model. In our last post, we documented how the departing politicos at MARAD were trying to overrule Congress and put  the Working Group back on the “replace sea year” course. That hijacking puts Congress back in the curriculum-setting role that in turn puts it on a collision course with MSCHE. (The MARAD hijackers also set up Congress to take the blame if curriculum changes are made that threaten the Academy’s reaccreditation.)

The attempt to get the Working Group to recommend that Congress make a major change to the Academy’s curriculum while it is on Accreditation Warning is an existential threat to the Academy’s reaccreditation.

There are a couple of ways to address this problem. First, in the absence of a new MARAD Administrator, Secretary Chao should step in directly and let the members of the Working Group know that she expects them to follow Congress’ directive and not get sidetracked by efforts to force a major curriculum revision such as replacement of sea year. Second, Congress should direct that the Working Group’s recommendations be delayed until Secretary Chao’s choice for the new Maritime Administrator is in office so that the report becomes Secretary Chao’s report.  Finally, Congress should consider getting additional outside input on the Working Group’s report before it is finalized and sent to Congress. What goes to Congress should be fully vetted so that it is in a format that Congress can act upon. Congress should consider directing that before the Working Group report is finalized, it be sent to the USMMA Faculty Curriculum Committee and MSCHE. Both should be invited to offer comment and be given 60 days to do so. The public should also have the opportunity to comment.  Congress should require the final report to include an appendix with the comments received from those two groups and any public comment.

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10 Comments

  1. Seven Days
    Today is the seventh day. The academy was required to submit its Progress Report to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) on 1 March. As is customary, the academy leadership has failed to communicate with its stakeholders. Was a report submitted? The answer is simple: either it has or it has not. It is difficult (but not impossible), to believe that the administration has blown off the deadline. Yet there has been no announcement, press release, website note or even a hot rumor on this very important matter. If a report has been submitted, why has no announcement been made? Why has the report itself not been made public? WHAT ARE THEY HIDING? Or, to paraphrase that Watergate classic, “What did Helis say, and when did he say it?”

  2. Terry’s comments reflect exactly why KPS is so necessary–NO RELIABLE INFO, if any at all, is ever provided by the current USMMA administration. If there was no KPS info or alumni provided info, we would have nothing at all. Keep it up.

    BTW in the interest of fairness, if there is anything inaccurate being said by either KPS or the alumni, I would really appreciate somebody from Wiley Hall pointing it out with facts, not rhetoric.

    • I gave Jaenichen an open invitation to correct me if I was wrong after his insistence at Homecoming that a KPS post was wrong. He never took me up on it. I’ve self-corrected posts when something I’ve said turned out to be wrong. (And I show the corrections so that there is full transparency.) I’m always open to correcting an error, no matter who brings the error to my attention. The funny thing is, they tell anyone who will listen that they shouldn’t believe what they read on KPS — but they have never once shown that something posted here was incorrect.

      And, I have to say, we have a pretty good track record — even when it comes to predicting what will happen in the future. We predicted LMI would get the RFQ contract — correctly . We predicted that the protocol for returning to sea year on commercial ships would match what industry had submitted to MARAD less than two weeks after the stand down — correctly. We broke the news that Anchorman Rodriguez was headed to Texas Maritime — correctly. We predicted that the RFQ was going to be used to replace the language in S.2829 that called for considering replacing sea year on commercial ships with “alternatives” — correctly.

      • I have also been informed tby several mids that the administration has , in meetings with the regiment, referred to KPS, the parents and the alumni as “delusional” . Of course, no proof or facts were ever provided to demonstrate that mental state.

        I will go back to facts, not delusions. Under this USMMA administration the following has happened :
        1. No women mids at sea on commercial ships for the first time in 2 generations;
        2. Sea Year suspended/ cancelled/ delayed . ( use whatever term fits);
        3. A service academy has been given an accreditation warning for the first time;
        4. More mids than ever before have had to get their required sea days on SMA training ships OR reserve ships that don’t move much, except with the tide;
        5. The USMMA refuses to GUARANTEE that all mids who have met every other qualification will not be denied graduation or licensure only because of a lack of sea days.

        Is there anything “delusional ” in 1-5 above? Again, I truly would welcome a response from Wiley Hall proving me wrong. As God is my witness, I want to be wrong and I would love to be proven”delusional”. As they say in Missouri. ” show me”.

  3. What’s remarkable about the machinations of the unholy trinity (Jaenichen, Rodriguez and Hellis) is that they have consistently acted with complete immunity knowing full well, based on their MARAD experience, that they will never be held accountable (by anyone) for their professional behavior. Thus, they ignore Congress, MSCHE, etc. while deliberately adhering to their own self-serving agenda – reaccreditation be damned. Your post identifies several steps that “should” be taken to prevent MARAD from hijacking the Congressional SAPR Working Group and creating a new reaccreditation risk. The operative word is “should” which is usually used to express one’s duty or obligation, however, there is no evidence to date that USMMA leadership feels any sense of responsibility, duty or obligation to the Academy or its midshipmen. It seems to me that Secretary Chao is the only person who can bring this on-going dilemma to a responsible conclusion that will be in the best interest of USMMA. Hopefully, she will receive the requisite unbiased, impartial and objective facts necessary to derive that conclusion without the undue influence of those who have created this morass.

  4. As I understand, A report was issued on March 1, 2017, to the MSCHE, but not made available to any shareholders.

    Mr. Colliers- excellent comment, sir.

    • If anyone has a copy of what was submitted, they can send it to Andy Simpson 82 @ Save Kings Point.com (remove the spaces). I will sanitize the document to remove identifiers and then make it available on KPS.

  5. Just a note: As of 2 minutes ago, the school website still has, as it’s last reaccreditation update, a date of June 30, 2016. (8 months and 8 days ago).

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