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Letters: Turmoil over scandal at Kings Point

Midshipmen walk in file on the campus of

Midshipmen walk in file on the campus of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

Newsday’s editorial says that the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s faculty and midshipmen are subject to a “culture of fear” regarding sexual harassment [“Set new course at Kings Point,” Jan. 13].

This conclusion rests on a report commissioned from an outside consultant by outgoing Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The report is part of a cover-up of the academy’s wrongful decision to suspend the Sea Year, which is recognized as the most enriching part of the academy’s program.

One can read the 138-page, $363,000 report in vain to find support for suspending the Sea Year despite interviews with 96 current and former midshipmen.

The report’s bias is further revealed by the existence of a section titled “Lack of Personal Ownership,” apparently in response to a faculty member’s interview indicating sexual harassment is not a huge problem.

We trust the academy’s alumni association will urge the U.S. Office of Inspector General to investigate this waste of taxpayer funds that undermines the goals of this valuable resource for the maritime industry and our national defense.

Joseph W. Ryan Jr., Melville

Editor’s note: The writer is a member of the academy’s Class of 1961.

 

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association and Foundation would like to thank Newsday for revealing the blatant leadership failures that have plagued the academy under Superintendent James Helis [“Misconduct at Academy,” News, Jan. 15].

Taken with the report from the Department of Transportation’s consultant, your article is first and foremost a damning indictment of an administration whose repeated missteps have inflicted harm on both our midshipmen and esteemed academic institution.

We stand by alumnus Chelsea Tapper, and any other midshipmen past or present, whom Helis and the academy staff have overlooked or turned away. It is simply unacceptable that students have faced an environment hostile to sexual-misconduct reporting. This cannot go on.

It remains unclear exactly how the academy plans to address these serious issues. Key positions, such as the sexual assault response coordinator, remain unfilled. There exists no clear strategy to ameliorate the failures detailed in the consultant’s study and reiterated by Newsday’s reporting.

As always, the alumni association will work with leadership for the continuity of the academy and the good of the midshipmen who represent the next generation of maritime leaders. With Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s reinstatement of Sea Year aboard commercial vessels, we have our work cut out for us.

James Tobin, Great Neck

Editor’s note: The writer is the president of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association and Foundation.

 

I’m the parent of a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy’s Class of 2014, and I believe that Newsday’s coverage of the issues facing the academy is unfair and one-sided.

All five federal service academies are heavily scrutinized, and there have been many stories similar to those from Kings Point. Obviously, drinking and sexual harassment are serious issues. At these academies, unlike at many other colleges, the problems are met with serious consequences that may even include expulsion.

A Kings Point midshipman must complete four years of college in three years and spend a full year at sea as part of the licensing regimen. During my son’s time at Kings Point, he had a single day’s summer vacation his sophomore year, as he was required to complete 320 days at sea to qualify for a commission.

When many college students are getting back to their dorm rooms after partying at 5 a.m., the cadets and midshipmen at service academies are rising, shining their shoes and getting ready for inspection.

The majority of Kings Point’s issues are during Sea Year on commercial vessels, not on campus or on military ships, which have strict rules relating to sexual harassment or fraternization.

Christopher Ré, Massapequa

Editor’s note: The writer is a past president of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Greater New York Parents Association.

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