Reverberations continue to following the harrowing allegations of rape and sexual harassment while training aboard a U.S.-flag merchant ship recently made by the female cadet at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, N.Y., now widely referred to as “Midshipman X.”
Yesterday came news the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration is to “pause” the academy’s Sea Year training program.
The decision came after the chairs of the Congressional authorizing committees with jurisdiction over the academy wrote demanding that the program be suspended and that, prior to its resumption, the USMMA develop a public written action plan that includes detailed steps that will be taken to ensure the safety of cadets at sea.
A letter to midshipmen dated yesterday, signed by DOT Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg, Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley and Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Jack Buono, announced the pause of the program, noting “it is our hope to have a plan quickly that unites the entire maritime community and that we can present to Congress so that you can resume sailing in December.”
The letter said that a midshipmen advisory committee will be established “that will work with our USMMA Advisory Board to give you a voice in decision making.”
“Finally,” said the letter, “we understand that one of the reasons that midshipmen have hesitated to come forward to report incidents is fear of retaliation. We want to remind all midshipmen that you have enrolled in an institution that is educating you to lead with integrity, honor, and dedication. Retaliation has no place in our community and will not be tolerated. We appreciate your commitment to supporting each other. USMMA leadership will convene a series of meetings this week—including an all hands meeting with midshipmen on Wednesday and a town hall with the broader Kings Point community later in the week—to provide everyone an opportunity to continue dm critical discussions.”
The letter made no mention of another demand of the Congressional chairs, namely that Admiral Buono be replaced.