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Officials: Review Merchant Marine Academy's sex-harassment policies

Seven people have been appointed to an advisory

Seven people have been appointed to an advisory board that will be examining instruction and management at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. (Feb. 22, 2012) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Two members of Congress have asked for a review of the sexual assault and harassment prevention policies and reporting procedures established by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point.

The congressional request, from Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), came in response to surveys conducted in the 2009-10 academic year that revealed 11 instances of actual or attempted rape or assault reported by members of the academy community and reports by 21 midshipmen that they had been sexually harassed.

An "Inspector General's review of the Academy's training and reporting procedures will help ensure every available step has been taken to protect midshipmen, faculty and staff at the Academy," Cummings said in a statement.

Speier wrote that Tuesday's request was made now to determine whether "the academy's new policies are working to protect midshipmen and to deter sexual crimes."

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy issued a statement Wednesday, saying the survey results had "prompted significant changes at the Academy," including the hiring of a full-time employee to coordinate the response to sexual assaults.

The representatives -- members of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- made their request to the inspector general of the Department of Transportation. The department funds the academy's annual operating budget.

The academy stated that its new sexual-assault response coordinator has taken a "wide range of steps to reduce sexual assaults and harassment on campus."

"The Academy has made progress, but has more work to do," the statement read, adding that it "will continue to move swiftly to address any shortcomings." The DOT issued its own statement saying that the Academy has made "significant progress in the last year" on addressing the issues.

Mary Jane Fuschetto, national chair of the USMMA Parents Association, agreed.

"I think they've tightened up the ship completely," Fuschetto said.

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