Ivy Barton Suter is one of the many alumni who have stepped forward to try to help get the rudderless ship known as the United States Merchant Marine Academy in seaworthy shape and back on course. She appeared in one of the early, highly-visible, video interviews that demonstrated support — by women — for the restoration of sea year. She has editorialized several times (here and here). Last week, she spoke out again.
This is a woman who truly understands what it means to be a pioneering woman in a male-dominated field. She went through sea year before the Academy had a clue as to how to deal with women as midshipmen on campus, to say nothing about sending them out on sea year. Here’s how I summarized her background a few months back:
Ivy Barton Suter was in the first class of women to graduate from the Academy. She did her sea year at a time when the Academy was essentially making it up as it went along when it came to supporting female midshipmen, especially at sea. As this history describes it,
After creating quarters in the barracks, ensuring appropriate lavatory facilities, and securing berthing space aboard ships, the Academy did little if anything to help women students deal with an often unwelcoming, if not hostile, environment.
So I commend to you Barton Suter’s latest effort. Here’s a snippet, but by all means, read the whole thing:
[O]ver the past few years the Academy has been kneecapped by serious leadership and management issues, which have provided direct threats to the school’s accreditation. The suspension of Sea Year, the mission-critical training that prepares midshipmen to sail aboard U.S. flagged ships upon graduation, has only added to the Academy’s woes.
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[S]tudents are missing out on the training they need for a profession in the maritime industry, a sector critical to our economy, and one that badly needs an infusion of human capital: fully-trained officers.
We join her in her conclusion, which urges Secretary Chao to “to reverse past missteps.” That reversal is long overdue.