The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point continues to face deeply troubling allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment that must be addressed. In the latest setback for the federal service academy, several members of the men’s soccer team had their diplomas withheld at graduation and the program was suspended after a federal probe was announced into an alleged incident on the team bus last fall.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is still investigating, but the allegations are not without a disturbing context. There already is an ongoing audit into the school’s sexual assault and harassment prevention efforts. Several reports have detailed a sexual harassment and sexual assault problem on campus and at sea. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an accrediting agency, put the school on warning last year, citing the sexual harassment and assault concerns, and additional administrative and financial issues. The commission is expected to update that status this week. Meanwhile, the U.S. Maritime Administration, which falls within the Department of Transportation and oversees the academy, has commissioned an independent review of its functions and programs. While the review’s description didn’t mention the academy, it clearly should be part of the examination.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who spoke at graduation last week, should appoint a maritime administrator, the federal official responsible for the academy. The school can’t steer past this crisis without the right stewardship and oversight. Students, parents, and alumni need answers. The academy has to right its ship and provide a solid education in a socially safe environment.