I’ve done my due diligence on Self Solutions. For the reasons discussed below, KingsPointSentry.com encourages all Academy midshipmen and graduates from the last five classes to participate in the Self Solutions study. Information about how to participate is at the conclusion of this post.
As you may be aware, the USMMAAAF appointed a distinguished independent task force to “work cooperatively with the Academy’s administration to develop a coordinated response to address sexual misconduct at USMMA.” The independent task force represents a broad spectrum of the maritime industry, all of whom are USCG licensed, or formerly licensed, ship’s officers. It includes four women, three of whom have sailed in licensed capacities on board commercial ships. One of the task force members is a graduate of Texas Maritime Academy and another is a graduate of the Calhoon MEBA Engineering School, while the remainder are USMMA graduates. Full information about the task force can be found here.
The task force, in turn, has selected Self Solutions “to conduct a comprehensive assessment of sexual misconduct at the Academy.” According to the selection announcement, the study will investigate:
- Best practices that can immediately impact sexual misconduct prevention and response at USMMA;
- Better implementation of existing strategies to eliminate sexual misconduct at USMMA;
- The effectiveness of the suspension of Sea Year core curricula as a means of eliminating sexual misconduct at USMMA; and
- Increasing the transparency of the Academy’s efforts and rationale for implementing specific sexual misconduct policies.
What I learned about Self Solutions
Self Solutions has experience working with university officials to address campus sexual assault prevention. According to its website, its analytic processes allow it to help “university officials manage risk by showing them quantitatively the relationship between students, their behaviors, their values, and their environment.”
In doing my due diligence, I had several concerns in particular:
- How can midshipmen be confident that their participation will be kept anonymous?
- How transparent is the process?
- Is the study going to be truly independent?
I spoke directly with Jim Pfautz, the CEO of Self Solutions, to get answers to my questions and find out more about what it planned to do in its investigation. I also received information from Dr. Mary Clisbee, whom Pfautz described as the person who “makes sure that we ask questions backed by solid research.” Here’s what I learned:
- The process “will be totally transparent, as will our final report.”
- “We do not record names of those who are interviewed in any way. We audio or video record the interview, but keep the files on a password protected computer until the written transcripts are made, and then the recording is destroyed. No one will see the transcripts except those working for Self Solutions. A professional transcriber will create the verbatim transcripts, and she listens via a headset and transcribes in a private office, to reduce the likelihood that anyone could identify a participant by their voice.”
- “We are sensitive to concerns that questions about class or major could result in loss of anonymity. We will only ask for their class information, and that is so we can determine if they have been at sea or not.”
- “We may use quotes in our final report, but they will not be linked to a particular person. i.e. ‘One midshipmen reported that …..'”
- “We will share the written transcript with the [midshipman who gave the interview] if he or she wants to see it. He or she can redact or edit the transcript at that time.”
- “The midshipmen will be informed that this is totally voluntary and they can decide to stop the interview at any time.”
- “If the midshipmen wish to share their email with us, we will send them a copy of the final report.” (They will also provide a copy to KingsPointSentry.com and I will post it to the “Important Documents” page.)
- Self Solutions is willing to answer any questions the midshipmen may have.
- Self Solutions does not have to report back to the independent task force or the USMMAAAF as to directions the study is taking before submitting its final report.
I was impressed with the overall attitude towards the project that Pfautz conveyed in our conversation. He emphasized that what Self Solutions delivers is not an opinion and that everything it does is research-based — including the conclusions. As he described it (I’m paraphrasing), there is plenty of research about SA/SH; that research drives the questions they ask; that research drives the conclusions that are to be drawn from the answers to those questions; and that research identifies the best practices to implement to address whatever the data shows. The report will include a bibliography that identifies the research.
Self Solutions will collect its data through interviews of volunteers. Pfautz said that they are looking for midshipmen who are currently enrolled at the Academy and recent graduates (graduates in the last five graduating classes). He emphasized that they are not approaching this with any result in mind:
“The last thing I want is someone giving me data they think I want. The data is key. We want accurate data.”
The Interview Process
The interview process will take about 15 minutes and Pfautz is the primary person conducting the interviews. (If they are swamped with volunteers to be interviewed, that could change.) If an individual midshipman wants to see the questions in advance, they are willing to provide them and it does not affect the integrity of the data. Interviews are done by telephone, GoToMeeting.com or Skype. So far, most midshipmen have preferred GoToMeeting.com or Skype.
To schedule an interview, the preferred method of communication is to send an email to email@example.com (put “USMMA interview” in the subject line to help him filter them). If you are not comfortable sending an email, you can call 202.725.0866.
There is only way we collectively can address any and all SA/SH problems associated in any way with the Academy, midshipmen, or the maritime industry. That is if accurate data is collected, it is objectively analyzed, and then proven solutions are identified (and implemented) to address the problems that are found. Because we believe that Self Solutions is genuinely seeking to contribute to that effort, we encourage your participation.
Please participate. Don’t hold back — Please be honest and candid. If you have been a victim of SA/SH — at the Academy or during sea year — it is particularly important that you participate to the extent that you are able to do so. Your willingness to contribute could prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
KingsPointSentry.com encourages all midshipmen and recent graduates to participate in the Self Solutions study.
Our position regarding the LMI study has not changed — continue to boycott it.
Because we still do not believe that the LMI study is independent or transparent, we continue to recommend, for the reasons stated here, that midshipmen not participate in the LMI study. However, it’s not because we oppose the collection of the data — it’s because we oppose the misuse of the data and the fact that the lack of transparency and independence will allow the data to be misused against the very midshipmen who are asked to provide the data. Within the next few days, I will put up a post with suggestions as to steps that the DOT can take that would allow KingsPointSentry.com to rescind its call for the boycott of the LMI study.