Reaction to Friday’s meeting from a 1/C midshipman

This was submitted as a comment, but I’m elevating it to a post because what this midshipman says is so important:

As a senior midshipman here at the Academy, I was extremely disappointed with yesterday’s meeting, and specifically Admiral Helis’ comments. Insulting the regiment and telling us that we don’t think that there is a problem is beyond unprofessional, not to mention a waste of time. The regiment as a whole fully understands that this is a problem and wants to do everything it can to fix it, and not only restore sea year but make our campus better for everyone. Since June that is all we have been trying to do, despite our significantly little control in the matter. Our attitudes aren’t the problem. Calling us delusional won’t fix the problem either. It’s demoralizing since we as Midshipman, college students, and young adults give every ounce of our time, efforts, and faith to this Academy. Our only hope is to graduate one day and see all of our hard work pay off.

The bigger problem lies within Admiral Helis’ staff. Our campus is full of employees and “officers” that have committed acts of SASH against midshipman, yet still remain fully employed. My biggest concern is that if we truly have a ZERO tolerance policy, why do those members still work here? That doesn’t send a good message down from the top and destroys any hope for a foundation of trust with the leadership. Before the midshipman are blamed for this mess, look to the staff that have SASH reports filed against them. Once they are removed permanently, only then can we move forward to truly having a safer campus.


  1. Ironically backed up by Helis’ pet study by LMI. If Helis uses LMI Study to justify his vindictive behavior towards Mids, he must also accept the multiple critical parts of the study about him and his failure of leadership as well.

    Page 3-46: “Another factor that affects reporting at the Academy is that midshipmen do not appear to trust some of the persons to whom they are encouraged to make reports. One midshipmen indicated, “Whether you would seek help from an HRO depends on who your HRO is.” Another stated, “We still have two Company Officers in their positions who were accused of sexual harassment, so they have zero credibility within the regiment.””

  2. Other parts of the LMI Study which calls into question Helis’ failure to lead.

    Page 3-20: Ironically, the interviews revealed that midshipmen, staff, and faculty each feel that the others are not invested in the school. One midshipman commented, “Midshipmen leaders are trying to instill pride and improve the Regiment, but aren’t getting support from the administration.”

    Page 3-21: The lack of trust between midshipmen and the Academy leadership, staff, and faculty is driven by midshipmen’s perception that they are not treated fairly, leading to fear of being unjustly disciplined. The constant fear of being put on report by staff and faculty members, lack of consistent communication, and perception of a double-standard for midshipmen compared to staff and faculty contributes to this lack of trust. We heard from midshipmen that this “bunker mentality” causes midshipmen to close ranks whenever they are threatened. This may contribute to a culture of blaming of the victim, because midshipmen do not trust leadership and perceive any midshipmen who make complaints as crossing the line and becoming one of “them.”

    Page 3-25: Interviews with midshipmen, staff, and faculty members showed that the superintendent is generally liked, is a positive role model, and holds a clear moral compass. However, the Sea Year stand down has hurt his credibility with midshipmen and some staff and faculty and reduced his ability to lead change. Midshipmen we interviewed expressed distrust of senior leadership, largely for this reason. The stand-down has caused some midshipmen and the faculty and staff to question the superintendent’s commitment to the mission of the Academy and his understanding of the Sea Year’s critical tie to industry and post-graduation employment. This credibility gap has affected the superintendent’s ability to convince these key stakeholders that the stand-down was intended to improve the safety of midshipmen at sea.

    Page 3-25: Leadership visibility and engagement across campus is key to successfully driving change. While the superintendent has improved his engagement by beginning to hold small group meetings with midshipmen, some midshipmen, faculty, and staff indicated that he is still not visible enough on the Academy grounds and that they felt disconnected and disengaged from him.

    Page 3-25: A recurring issue that emerged during interviews was the lack of effective communication from leadership. While several commented that the superintendent has used town halls and e-mails to disseminate information, feedback revealed that this type of communication still has been largely ineffective. A related theme from our interviews was that senior leadership’s overreliance on e-mail to communicate across the school reflected senior leadership’s isolation and desire to drive change from the top down rather than through coalition building and coordination across the institution.

    Page 3-33: The superintendent, staff, and faculty members lack credibility with the midshipmen. Midshipmen’s lack of trust in senior leadership, staff, and faculty colors their view of leadership’s commitment and ability to prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment, and retaliation.

    Page 3-45: This lack of trust could be one of the reasons why the Academy’s reporting numbers are lower than their incidence (as recorded in the 2014 DMDC SAGR Survey) numbers. One male midshipman said pointedly, “I think it all comes back to a question of trust. Mistrust is why they do not report.”

  3. Does anybody have any solid information on how many kids might actually be way behind on their sea days? We have been told that so far they expect no problems in terms of kids being able to graduate or sit for their licensing exams, but I know a bunch of A splitters who are supposedly way behind. I don’t know if that’s just the mids complaining or if it’s real. Would love to have real numbers from MARAD and the Academy, not just anecdotal info from the mids. Any way to get those numbers?

    Also, having read the report from LMI, which seems to clear the way for a resumption of sea year on commercial ships, I have asked my representative in congress to keep asking one question regardless of anything else the administration says–What is the projected start up date for mids to go out to sea on commercial ships? Even for folks who supported the stand down, that has got to be the key to ending this mess.

  4. Brings me back to RAdm Greene who started on a course to detect and root out malefactors and abusers of authority, especially in the realm of sexual predation at the Academy. Such behavior usually comes from a person in authority, not the other way around. The waves it generated among the MARAD elite was, in my opinion, the primary reason he was ‘evicted’. Did he need laws or special permission to do this? No, he had the audacity to act like a true leader!

    On a second point I made elsewhere, all superintendents should be required to spend some time on merchant ships as a BFOQ [Bona Fide Occupational Qualification] before assuming the mantle of responsibility. Such an experience would have made abundantly clear, that Sea Year is not merely a stake to be placed on the table and played roulette with.

  5. The LMI Study did not address the fact that RADM Greene was fired by MARAD for addressing Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment issues. This is root cause of the fear of retaliation reported in the LMI study.

    • It is certainly the wide-spread belief that this is the reason Greene was fired; but, to my knowledge, there is no public record that we can point to that would support the statement. (Not disagreeing with your comment, but pointing out that I’m not sure it can be stated as a “fact.”)

      I’ve always wondered if this story, if the facts behind it were known, would support the wide-spread belief that the reason Greene was removed as Superintendent was because he was pursuing SA/SH (within the administration) at the Academy and in MARAD.

  6. As a general rule, “going back” in time to solve a problem is not going to work. As much as Admiral Greene might have been admired (he’s well before my mid’s time), what happened 4 or 5 years ago is just an unfortunate footnote in Academy history now. Everything that I have heard about him and his administration has pretty much been positive, but may I suggest that it is time to move on.

    I have always said that I have no doubt that SASH exists, both on campus and at sea. It is intolerable in any situation. I have also attacked people on various sites who have made what I describe as “cavemen” statements implying in some manner that SASH is somehow just part of the maritime tradition and that the women mids have to “toughen up.” They were not helpful to the efforts of so many people out there trying to end the stand down.

    Nonetheless, I have also stated all along that the stand down was an anti-women, over reaction to the problem because it actually set women back in the commercial industry. I have also always felt that the emphasis on SASH by the administration was also just an attempt to distract from the real problem–accreditation probation by Middle States.

    That said, now that the silly sea year stand down is hopefully coming to an end, the focus should change to how best to deal with the problem of SASH in the context of sea year being a unique experience. Unlike interns in other industries, a mid who the victim of SASH at sea cannot simply walk out the door to escape an abuser. They are stuck. So let’s start dealing with that issue going forward. Let’s not look back.

    Any system going forward should have the following requirements, which I am sure that many of the private companies already have in place in some form or another, particularly the larger ones.

    1. Training and education for crew and mids on SASH issues.
    2. Clear reporting procedures to both the company and the academy.
    3. Designated officers on each ship to whom SASH complaints are to be made,
    4. Consistency in judicial or quasi judicial proceedings for things such as standards of proof and burdens of proof (We don’t want another Duke Lacrosse team situation).
    5. Consistency and proportionality in discipline (A person’s career should not be ruined because of a single off color comment. On the other, assault of any nature should be subject to real criminal proceedings and penalties)
    6. Both the accused and the accusers should know, gong into any proceeding, what the minimum and maximum penalties could be if the accused is found “guilty”. In that way, much like in a criminal proceeding, both the accused and the accuser can make a better determination of whether, respectively, they wish to go forward with the charges or contest them.

    All of this can be developed over time, There is absolutely no need to delay the continuation of sea year while the powers that be sit around waiting for the perfect system to be developed. Don’t let the “perfect” be the enemy of the “good”.

    Finally, as so many of us have said over the last months, the administration should be focusing more on the accreditation issue than on the SASH issue. It is clearly the more important of the two because it represents a threat to the very existence of the academy itself. SASH at sea or on land is irrelevant if there is no school.

Comments are closed.