The RFQ was classic bureaucratic mumbo jumbo. It was pretty difficult to figure out what the Academy was looking for. But, at homecoming, the Superintendent and Maritime Administrator shed some light on it. In the process, we also gained some insight into what, to be kind, I will call the fuzzy “logic” that is driving Academy leadership. If I wanted to be less kind but more accurate, I would call it “buck-passing” or “scapegoating.”
In June, the administration knew that it was about to get criticized in the MSCHE accreditation report for not doing enough to address SA/SH at the Academy. It also knew that the Inspector General had completed an assessment of the administration’s efforts at addressing SA/SH at the Academy and was preparing its report (ultimately issued in August 2016). The IG was measuring the administration’s efforts in 44 different categories and the Academy presumably knew by then that its track record was less than stellar. (There I go, being kind again.)
I’ve commented before about the “look, a squirrel” nature of the sea year
stand down cancellation decision. I’ve also proven that the the Academy’s own statistics do not support a claim that commercial mariners are the sources of SA/SH during sea year. So now Superintendent Helis has come up with a refined argument which goes something like this:
- All the federal academies are surveyed about SA/SH and we are the worst in an apples-to-apples comparison. (I’ve explained why I think that is not accurate and Maritime Administrator Jaenichen has yet to take me up on my offer to correct the record if it is accurate.)
- We are doing everything we can to address SA/SH by midshipmen (definitely not accurate, as I’ve shown here) and so are the other academies. But, we still have a problem and the other academies’ performance in this area is improving. Therefore, there must be an external answer.
- The primary difference between the USMMA and the other federal academies is that USMMA has a sea year.
- Q.E.D., that must explain the difference. I.e., sea year must be turning midshipmen into sexists and sexual predators.
- The administration believes this is confirmed by reports from faculty members that when midshipmen come back from sea year, they are “different.”
That’s the ultimate in fuzzy logic. First, the administration hasn’t done everything it can. It failed to implement a full third of the initiatives that it was supposed to have completed by November 2015 according to the Inspector General. Second, if the Academy leadership had ever sailed, or would simply take the time to actually listen to the alumni (they’re still willing to help despite the fact that Helis evicted them from the campus on false pretenses four years ago), the administration could easily understand why, and how, midshipmen are different when they return from sea year. They are different. It has nothing to do with SA/SH. In fact, probably quite the opposite. When midshipmen come back from sea year, they’ve been in the “real world.” They’ve seen what counts and matters on ships. Many midshipmen come back with an attitude about the regimental system or about some of their academic courses because they believe that those things won’t matter out in the real world. On the other hand, they don’t come back as monsters or with regressive attitudes about women. They are more mature; and they’ve seen examples of highly competent women: as licensed and unlicensed shipmates, in boarding contingents from the Coast Guard, in shipyards, and in every aspect of shore side employment. And because it’s the real world — where SA/SH is taken seriously and people are promoted on the basis of competency rather than having job descriptions rewritten to eliminate competition for the job — if anything, they come back with an awareness that the maritime industry is just like any other private industry when it comes to women.
Which gets us to the purpose of the RFQ. Based upon what was reported at homecoming, the purpose of the RFQ is to understand the culture at the Academy and in the shipping industry to find out why midshipmen come back “changed” after sea year with respect to SA/SH. The taxpayers are apparently going to fund a study to explain a phenomenon that is based upon a flawed hypothesis — a hypothesis driven by people with a motive to find an explanation for the SA/SH problem at the Academy that is unrelated to their demonstrable and abject failure to address the problem. And that’s the real purpose of the RFQ.