Is it time to stand down Land Year? [updated]

If it weren’t for double standards, Academy leadership wouldn’t have any standards at all.

This is from the the Facebook page for the USMMA Office of Student Activities.  It’s also from the “You couldn’t possibly make this up department”:

 

But wait, follow the link . . .

 

 

 

 

It’s OK, it’s for a good cause.

And so is the undie run (but not the House of Love, House of Yes):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m thinking that a Superintendent Helis costume would be a big hit . . .

 

UPDATE:  This post deserves a caption contest.  Post your suggestions for a different heading to the post in the comments!

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29 Comments

  1. Andy- You are really stretching for a cause to complain about. This is a great link. I would encourage my son to get out and go to see Romeo & Juliet or Tribe: Art Music & Community. I am glad there were some options posted so they don’t sit around or get into trouble. It looks like the run would be a lot of fun and supporting Children’s Tumor foundation. Good cause. My kids have been doing the polar plunge with their high school for the last couple years with the Special Olympics- it’s the same thing. I think the Timeout article appeals broadly. As I look down that page, I see everyone smiling and having a great time. There a lots of other areas of concern, midshipman activities is not one of them.

    • If the administration hadn’t stood down cancelled sea year based upon — by its own admission — no specific instances of SA/SH; if the administration hadn’t sanctimoniously trashed an entire industry; if the administration hadn’t taken the position that it needed to (a) protect the “children” and (b) use midshipmen as pawns to bring about social changes to an entire industry that it perceives are necessary, I could agree with you.

      But this is the administration that has lectured us on zero tolerance. It has lectured the midshipmen that everything they do reflects upon the Academy. It prevented a first classman from graduating with his class last year because he made an (admittedly) inappropriate comment that was overheard by, but not directed at, another midshipman and reported under the zero tolerance policy.

      If the Captain of a ship with midshipmen assigned to it for sea year had distributed that Timeout article (including the introduction that was added to it by the USMMA Office of Student Activities, what do you think would have happened under the Academy’s zero tolerance policy? I submit that the mids would be pulled from the ship and the Academy would demand that action be taken at against the captain.

      Look, it was a stupid thing for the Office of Student Activities to post. At any other time, it would have gone unnoticed or, if noticed, someone would have said, “You might want to take that down.” I’m not calling for resignations or firings over this. I don’t think whoever posted this was trying to do anything sexist or bad. And whoever posted it is a real person with a real job and probably has a family to support. The person deserves some compassion coupled with a stern, “Think before you post. Don’t do something stupid like that again.”

      The same should hold true for midshipmen who do something stupid. But unfortunately, I do believe there is a double standard at that Academy. The best outcome for this would be for everyone to realize that zero tolerance does not require extreme punishment for every transgression. Everyone makes mistakes and the consequences of those mistakes should be determined by how they harmed people and whether the persons who made the mistakes can be rehabilitated – rather than made examples for others.

      • I’m not sure I understand what you are trying to conclude. New York is a cultural city that our midshipmen are lucky to be located in. Zero Tolerance is in regards to abuse and unbecoming behavior. It seems unrelated to the point you are making.

        There is a range of activities on that list and you are picking out a couple and stretching to link it to the cause. Personally, I think exposure to art and culture around sex might help the midshipmen have respect for what has become a difficult topic at the academy. Sensorship is a slippery slope. It still looks like the article was about giving our young adults who can’t get home some options for the weekend. In the words of the President, Fake news! I agree on many other posts, just not this one.

        • It’s a question of a double standard. This is an Academy that has decided that midshipmen cannot date other midshipmen if assigned to the same ship or that they cannot have a romantic relationship with a crew member on a ship. I think that is probably overkill, but I also can understand the need for a bright line standard. But if you are going to start regulating midshipmen’s consensual sex lives, then posting a link to a sex party where the only requirement is consent seems out-of-place. As I’ve said in other comments on this post, if the shoe had been on the other foot and a captain of a ship had distributed this, the Academy leadership would have been up in arms about it. Or, imagine what would have happened to a midshipman officer who had distributed the article, with the same introduction (which was written by the Office of Student Activities) to the midshipmen under his command. I guarantee you there would have been serious repercussions.

          To be clear, I don’t favor those serious repercussions for something like this. I’d like this to become a learning moment for the administration and then a teaching moment to impart to the midshipmen. I’d like to see leadership stand down from its sanctimonious stand on all things SA/SH and instead adopt a more realistic approach. As suggested by another person in the comments, perhaps there should be a distinction between legal conduct and illegal conduct. Telling a sexist joke to your roommate at the Academy should not be treated as seriously as date rape. When you do treat everything with the same moral equivalence, what you end up doing is making the serious events seem less important.

  2. Student Activites is about the only good thing at the academy right now. Read the rest of the article. You are really cherry picking.

    • Read my other comments. I wouldn’t consider this an issue at all had the Academy not elevated prevention of SA/SH to the level of a religion where all blasphemers must be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.

  3. This is an example of the DOT having an employee who works at the usmma posting this in his official role as Activity Director. So Sec Chao should demand he be fired and Helis held accountable for its on his watch. Period. He is the Captain of the ship. Sick of the academy taking clandestine actions to destroy the academy and then hid behind they have no control when something g like this happens. Zero tolerance and that should apply to DOT holding Helis responsible and accountable for his own zero tolerance

    • I think the post’s intentions were pretty benign. 10 years ago when social media never existed, the parents didn’t have half an idea of what their midshipmen daughters and sons were up to in the city anyways. Think the parents need to tap the brakes here a bit on the social media..

      • Unconcerned alum, appreciate your sentiment and agree that parents do not need to know what their student is doing on the weekend. However, I do not think that is the problem here. The problem is that the midshipmen of 2018 and 2019 have lost a significant amount of commercial sea year training due to the administration’s belief that thy were exposed to sexual activities that were unacceptable. This included pressure to visit brothels, access to pornographic materials on board, etc. Under the zero tolerance policy enacted by Hellis, midshipmen have been set-back and dismissed for telling “improper” jokes, using sexual terminology in discussions with others, etc. (I am purposefully focusing on legally acceptable behavior – not criminal sexual assault and harassment. Any criminal activity by midshipmen should not be tolerated and should be prosecuted.) USMMA administration has determined that legal acts that could be construed as sexual in nature are unacceptable and there will be zero tolerance of that behavior. Nevertheless, the Student Affairs Officer posts a suggestion for a long-weekend activity to attend a strip club style party, run a race in your underwear (not as bad), and attend a drunken sexually charged dance party over the President’s Day weekend. This is at a time when the Academy is under scrutiny for the poor climate on campus and incidents of SA/SH on campus that have caused the Academy to fall into a warning status with MSCHE. Moreover, if a midshipman had posted information about attending any of these three events, or returned to campus and described attending these events and the administration subjectively deemed it inappropriate, that midshipman would be up for dismissal or set-back. (Yes, set-back is now routinely used as a punishment and is not just an academic consequence. A midshipman was recently caught stuffing his rack. This has always been treated as a class-2 offense. However, that midshipman was just set back a year.) Therefore, it is the height of hypocrisy for the administration to tell the midshipmen they will be up for dismissal pursuant to the Academy’s SA/SH zero tolerance policy, and for a member of the administration to then advertise such events for the midshipmen’s enjoyment. That is where the ire of this parent is aimed – not at the events nor at the midshipmen that might choose to blow off steam at one of them as they are legal events for adults to attend in NYC.) The midshipmen have had their education irrevocably harmed to “save” them from this type of exposure, but the administration then suggests such exposure. The hypocrisy makes my head explode and makes the administration an even greater laughingstock to the entire regiment. Not a way to build trust and authority. That is the problem here. Moreover, this USMMA employee has posted improper communications in the past and even promoted a day of hugs on campus all during the sea year stand-down. Still shaking my head over this one.

      • The Academy is pretty lucky to have this guy. He is one of the few people making the place better. Attempting to make this fit your agenda is not right.

        • Well, I can say I thought the SA Director was doing a good job. Except for a couple of dumb posts on his behalf, the second one showing he did not learn from the first one, he upped the activities for the Mids to participate in. That said, I get the distinct impression my Mid is not a fan of the guy, you try to force your beliefs on others, smarter Mids who were taught critical thinking skills growing up, turn away and disengage from these so called “leaders” on the staff. It’s why so many Mids mock the Super too. There is a crisis of leadership at the Academy, and it is driven from the top down. Until that top leadership cancer is removed, the Academy will continue to suffer needlessly.

  4. Dear Unconcerned Alum
    We wouldn’t be as reactionary and or critical if this administration and academy leadership were not out to destroy the usmma it mission and curriculum. They lied about so much including why Sea Year was canceled. They said sash because that is easy to blame and the. Allow it to post the very same issues LMI cited as justification for their stand down. So they box themselves in and we just are calling them out. Throw Midshipmen out for sash comments , blame midshipmen for sash and the stand down as the Activity Director did, and you have more people watching and holding the academy leadership accountable

    Add Class of 79 Rodriguez who added to the destruction of the usmma to self gain and benefit the state maritime schools and why not call people who have misled Midshipmen, their familes, taxpayers and MOC to a standard?

  5. Speaking of standards how could a diatribe such as the following posting on the KP Washington blog by the Director of the Office of Student Activities during the course of the sea year cancellation go unnoticed by Academy leadership?

    “Several students posted this today and thanked the alumni for their support and I feel like I need to respond as a concerned citizen, retired mariner, and member of the KP Community. It continues to be alarming how out of touch these alumni are. We would already be back to see if we could be and it was safe. It has become clear to me that the academy will be back at sea as soon as the students decide they want to be back at sea. When they realize they have the opportunity to make change and take responsibility we will go back to sea. The alumni who claim to support them are only perpetuating the current climate. They all know there is a problem but they think society needs to bend to the whims of our alumni. The fun fact here is back in reality the students at the other maritime schools are upset about this too. They are upset that their schools’ are not taking care of them the way our school is taking care of our midshipmen. I guess that is the benefit of spending time on the state ships, but our negativity didn’t rub off on those students. It’s funny how selfish this has become on campus – me me me. This only shows how we don’t get it. If these folks spent as much time and money on making our students examples for society as they did trying to confuse our students and staff, finding victims to blame, printing signs and banners, and trying to embarrass our football team, we would have been at sea a while ago. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets around the country are starting to publish more and more. Keep smiling guys. I hope you feel good about what you have done. Students, until you guys start to stand up for yourselves and each other, land year will go on. This is a crisis of conscience. This isn’t black and white. This is about if we are moral people or not. I know we have a few folks out there who are.”

    Can you imagine an employee of any of the other federal academy posting such disloyal, disrespectful and dim-witted comments without leadership removing the person from the position? The problems reflected by lackluster leadership are pervasive and will require major organization surgery by the Secretary Chao to right the ship!

    • The activity director’s post from a few months ago is not only stupid, but simply wrong,especially about how the state academy mids were unhappy about not being “protected ” in the same manner as our mids.

      First of all, how would he even know?

      Second, here’s a story about the state cadets that a mid told me.

      Some usmma mids were out one night overseas with a bunch of Texas Maritime cadets. The Texas maritime cadets bought our mids a round of drinks and gave a “toast” thanking them for being such
      horrible perverts because the stand down had opened up commercial spots for them that otherwise would have gone to USMMA mids.
      Everyone had a good laugh, but nobody told our mids that they wished commercial sea year had been cancelled at their school as well.

      Like I said in another post, the Student Activity Director does a good job, but he has bought into the whole “SASH is the big problem” argument of the administration and a lot of students resent him for it.
      He should keep his mouth shut on this issue and stick to what he’s good at. Also, he should carefully consider what he puts out on the Internet. It never really goes away.

      BTW, has Rodriguez cancelled sea year on commercial ships yet at Texas Maritime? Just asking.
      New! React to a Post
      Press and hold the Like button to see all reactions.never really goes away.

  6. The saddest thing for me over this whole debacle is the length of the delay getting cadets back to sea. I can tell you that the policies and procedures that the shipping companies revised/refined were done MONTHS ago with no action on the part of MARAD other than talk,talk and talk. The recent approval was NOT the result of any recent changes. The former administrators at MARAD who are now gone should be ashamed of themselves as should Secretary Foxx who may have had good intentions but the execution of those intentions was an embarrassment plain and simple.

  7. “Your sex life isn’t the only thing that will benefit from this soiree.” Go to the city and have responsible FUN. This is simply a very poor administrative act. For more than 7 months midshipmen have experienced a dumbed down education and in some cases a deferral of graduation caused by the extreme concern of MARAD politicians ( now gone to their rewards elsewhwhere) and not due to the actions of the cadets. Morale in the regiment is at an ALL time low….and this was because sexual harassment and abuse was so high on the priority list of MARAD and the Academy leadership that these midshipmen sacrifices were warranted ( I was present on 3 occasions where he emphatically made this point) So, hipocracy raises it’s hoary head for all to see. Who is in charge here?

  8. Simply unbelievable!
    When holding that precious Dinner Pass or attaining the option to go into the city on a weekend, I had my own way to determine how I might enjoy myself or spend my money. As a punk rocker, I sought fliers stapled to telephone poles, that would give the names of bands and venues. Nowadays, there is the Internet and midshipmen have always been resourceful, without these misguided suggestions by the Activity Director. Simply put, even more benign activities should be overseen, as was the case with the USMMA Fine Arts Club. Armed with a government driver’s license, I was always sought after for trips into New York. Broadway plays are one thing, but untested and unvetted activities always invite trouble. This example is just short of the decried bordellos during Sea Year!
    Why pile on additional problems to the artificially created SASH crisis we, especially the midshipmen, are still enduring? It also completely undermines the message the administration, on campus or within MARAD, has been espousing regarding this subject. Perhaps so, because it was a distractor to the real problems on campus.
    Beggars belief, and I am quite liberal in my views!

  9. Personally, this post doest bother me . There’s nothing here that isn’t easily found on line
    anyway.

    But like Mr Simpson said, it is just an example of
    an administration that wants to create black and white SASH guidelines without realizing that it is itself operating in a gray area.

    The guy who posted this is not a bad guy and I am told he does a decent job as i believe the studrent activity director. I am also told, however, that he has bought into the administrion’s SASH position hook line and sinker and that alot of mids are annoyed with him. Of course, the kids don’t say anything, again, due to a fear of retaliation, warranted or not.

    The point is that when trying to navigate the constantly amorphous definition of SASH, this administration had best be very careful.

    I don’t want this guy disciplined. I just want the administration to remember this example of poor judgment when some poor kid makes an innocent midstake.

    People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

  10. I’m already on record on Facebook. I agree with Andy by and large. I saw this and asked myself, if as a manager in my company, I had an employee want to post these things in the break room, I would absolutely not permit it. If it were posted in any location I had cognizance over I’d have it taken down, and at least counsel the employee who posted it. I’d also likely be told by HR to institute a policy that required a manger sign off before other things were posted. Why? Because the law tells us, that if another employee sees it as creating a hostile environment, then it does so. I see these pieces of information as basically the same thing. The “break room” is the official webpage of the SAO, posting it and leaving it there clearly implies endorsement. It’s dumb. Further as Andy indicates it does indeed violate a policy of “zero tolerance” and also clearly, IMO, highlight the hypocrisy of the “Helis Administration.” Further I say this while clearly indicating, I myself find nothing in the post offensive, and truly believe, the Members of the Regiment are adults and able to decide for themselves if they want to participate in any of the cited activities.

  11. Maybe I am wrong and certainly Mr. Simpson can speak for himself, but too many people seem to misunderstand his post. Plain and simple, I don’t think he or almost anyone else is truly concerned about the CONTENT of the student activity director’s post. I know that I’m not.
    What bothers me is the HYPOCRACY of the student activity director’s post. If a mid had posted the same exact thing in a regiment wide e mail, there is no doubt in my mind that severe action would be taken against him or her because some other mid might get ” offended”.
    All I am saying is that when every marginally inappropriate comment gets taken as a SASH offense, everyone will be guilty of SASH at some point.
    Told a dirty joke- guilty
    Told a dumb blond joke- guilty . ( btw, my brilliant daughter is blond)
    Tell the wrong person that u really like their new haircut–guilty.
    Tell someone in the military they need to lose a few pounds — guilty.
    Say something about sex to a personal friend that someone else overhears– guilty.
    The possibilities are endless and without specifics, they are also subjective and determinations of guilt or innocence are left to the ideology of those making the decision.

    • Would someone please define this zero tolerance policy? I believe this is being loosely applied to the topic of sex in general in this blog. What was it that violates the policy about the contents of the Time Out article? There is a colorful description of each of the events but nothing SASH related to what was posted. I doubt Time Out New York would have allowed the event on their calendar if there was. I might be misunderstanding, are they really not allowed to discuss anything sex related? I will ask, but I thought the policy was about assult and harassment.

      Every interaction I have had with him has been very professional and caring. I am grateful for what he does at the academy. I really can’t see what he did wrong here other than it’s clear some people here don’t like him because he doesn’t agree with the position of the AAF. It seems like the efforts to run him off by this group are a little unfair.

      • This blog is not trying to run off the head of the Office of Student Activities. I have repeatedly said that I think that whoever posted the link to the Time Out article should be counseled but nothing more. I think there is one person (maybe two at most) who has commented in a way that argues for stronger punishment, and I suspect that some of that is because of the Facebook post made by the head of OSA after homecoming.

        Part of the problem with a “zero tolerance policy” is that it is really a buzz phrase rather than a “policy.” It means what the administration decides it means at any particular moment in time. You don’t really know what it means until a midshipman (or faculty/staff member, for that matter) is hauled before the inquisition for purposes of setting an example.

        But, let’s look at the $363,000, discredited, LMI study that former Secretary Foxx bought. We supposedly needed this study to assess the “culture” for SA/SH at the Academy. It identified “lack of respect for personal dignity” as one of the “root causes shaping the current climate.” Id. at p.v. Can you agree with me that suggesting undie runs, and linking to a list of activities that included a party featuring a BDSM dungeon and strippers (“of all genders” so at least it was politically correct and respected “personal differences” to use the words of the LMI report) and “encourag[ing] free love” just might be sending a slightly mixed message to midshipmen who are being lectured about the need to “respect personal dignity?” Here’s what your $363,000 in tax dollars bought you on the personal dignity front:

        The lack of respect for personal dignity and differences can be seen in widespread acceptance of sexist behavior and sexual harassment. In our interviews with midshipmen and staff and faculty members, we consistently heard that some displayed a dismissive attitude about inappropriate sexual comments, which they view as jokes, and about those who take offense as being “politically correct” or overreacting. Midshipmen feel pressured by their peers to look the other way when they are offended or threatened by inappropriate language. We also heard from several staff and faculty members that some of the faculty members exhibit these same behaviors, reinforcing the use of sexist language on campus. This has led to a culture in which inappropriate language goes unchecked, and midshipmen, mostly female, are subjected to this behavior inside and outside the classroom.

        LMI Report at p.3-2 (emphasis added).

        Even though the LMI study has been discredited, the Academy leadership has adopted it. I submit that you cannot read the above description of lack of respect for personal dignity and conclude that what was posted by someone in OSA was appropriate for an institution that has adopted the study.

        By the way, here’s what Secretary Foxx’s discredited, $363,000 LMI study had to say about the director of Student Activities position:

        DIRECTOR OF STUDENT ACTIVITIES
        The isolated physical location of the Kings Point campus and the heavy academic workload carried by midshipmen make campus social activities all the more important. The newly created director of Student Activities position is a positive development and serves as an opportunity for the Academy to offer recreational options that are relevant and engaging for college-age students. These options are important to provide midshipmen with non-alcoholic alternatives to relieve stress and let off steam. Midshipmen interviews revealed that the new director of Student Activities is perceived to be energetic and has produced a new well-regarded midshipmen social program of activities. The director is also currently being trained as a VA and is another person to help address sexual assault and sexual harassment.

        LMI study, Appendix B, p.B-2.

      • You actually hit the nail on the head. The zero tolerance policy, without strong published guidelines as to what actions are not being tolerated will eventually cause mass confusion and unfair and uneven disciplinary actions.

        For instance–non fraternization between mids and crew members or between mids themselves is an easy to identify standard. All well and good, but what is the punishment and will it be applied consistently.

        If a mid tells a dirty joke is that a SASH violation and what is the punishment?

        Does zero tolerance mean that private conversations between 2 consenting adults that are overheard by a third party constitute a SASH violation? I heard this actually happened at the academy. But I have no independent verification.

        Just remember the Duke Lacrosse team. Those kids were by any moral standard, horrible people. BUT. They were ‘t really guilty of anything other than being pigs.

        First define SASH clearly and then have appropriate and proportionate penalties. Alot of folks have no idea the risk their kids are at if this is not done. It can easily become a kangaroo court..

  12. Yeah, you’re really just looking for things to complain about at this point. If this is all an individual gets up to in a weekend in NYC, that’s a great weekend.

    During my time at KP, the absolute worst harassment and lack of moral character came from the Admin towards the students.

  13. Also, as you obviously did not do you’re research before spouting about athletic events you know nothing – The Cupid’s Undie Run has nothing to do with anything sexual in nature. It is about showing solidarity with children who are permanently scarred by neurofibromatosis.

    • No, I did my research. You are focused on the content of the specific event. As I explained here, it’s the context, not the content.

      What do you think would happen to a midshipman who put this picture from the Cupid run in a frame on his desk at the Academy? I don’t think the photograph is sexual in nature, but I can guarantee you if a midshipman put that on his desk, he’d be looking at serious punishment. If photographs from the event cannot be acceptably displayed on a midshipman’s desk, then the Academy should probably not be suggesting that midshipman participate.

    • Dear Midshipman Brown:

      Here’s the scenario and I challenge you to go to the school’s SASH officer and get an answer in writing. If you get one , I would love you to post it.

      You are out in NYC with a group of fellow mids, some men and some women. You pass an adult shop. It wasn’t on your itinerary but some of you, again some men and some women, decide to go in just for laughs. Once inside, some of you, again, both men and women, decide to buy some “sex toys”, for whatever reason.
      You go back to campus and that night when hanging with other friends, again both male and female, someone asks what youguys and gals did that day in the city and you tell them. Someone asks to see what you bought and you and the others who went to the city,both male and female, take out whatever it is and shows them to everyone. Again, everyone is having a good time and laughing. Nobody seems upset and nobody walks out.

      Nobody at any point from the beginning of your trip to NYC in the morning until you all went to bed at night ever indicated that they were uncomfortable, objected or was coerced into anything. You all thought you were all having a good time and having some laughs.

      The next day you find out that one of the mids who went to NYC was upset that you and others went into the sex shop, while he or she waited outside. You also find out that another mid back at school, who was not in your dorm room, heard about what was going on in your dorm that night when the toys were on display. They both file a complaint because the situations made them feel “uncomfortable.”

      At no point in time did either complainant indicate to the alleged offenders that they had a problem with what was going on.

      See if the SASH director will put IN WRITING that none of these activities constitute a violation of the school’s SASH policy. I would b pleasantly shocked if she did, but she won’t.

      The point again is that nobody cares about the content of the SA Directors post. The undie run sounds like a fun fundraiser. The problem is that if you posted the same exact thing, you might get brought up on charges… Or not. No clarity and double standards.

      “Zero Tolerance” sounds great, but it’s more important to clearly define exactly what is not being tolerated. That’s the problem.

    • Btw, Midshipman Brown, I have to agree with your statement that the most disrespectful people on campus are in the admin. I’ve heard that from ever mid I have spoken to.

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