The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association and Foundation has created a task force and commissioned a study to address sexual misconduct at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The USMMA AAF Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment was formed after the Kings Point, N.Y., federal maritime academy suspended its Sea Year program earlier this year citing concerns over “safety and mutual respect” for midshipmen serving on U.S.-flagged merchant vessels.

The formal announcement of the task force last week said the group would "review best practices on preventing and responding to sexual assault and harassment and provide recommendations on addressing sexual misconduct on USMMA's campus and during the Sea Year core curricula training."

The task force will be chaired by Capt. Eileen Roberson, U.S. Navy (Ret.), and includes three additional women and three men. Five members — including 1980 graduate Roberson — are USMMA alumni. Among the group are two recent female graduates, Andrea M. Morrison (2010), a licensed master mariner presently sailing as a chief mate for Crowley Maritime, and Breanna E. Linsley (2016), a naval architect at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash.

The other task force members are Jane R. Carpenter, former licensed master mariner and first female commander of the U.S. Maritime Service Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University's Texas Maritime Academy; Capt. Kevin P. Coyne (1977), president of Polaris Marine Partners; Mike Jewell, former president of the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association; and Thomas F. McCaffery (1976), president of McCaffery & Associates.

"Task Force members represent diverse parts of the maritime industry and come from different maritime schools. We all care deeply about this issue and are united in our commitment to finding effective ways to ensure positive and lasting change," Capt. Roberson said.

As its first act, the group retained Self Solutions, a veteran-owned business, to conduct research into sexual misconduct at the academy. According to a task force announcement, Self Solutions "specializes in investigating behaviors and culture aboard ships and at academies, and has developed programs that have helped college and university officials predict and prevent sexual assault."

Self Solutions plans to look into:

  • Best practices that can immediately impact sexual misconduct prevention and response at USMMA
  • Better implementation of existing strategies to eliminate sexual misconduct at USMMA
  • The effectiveness of the suspension of Sea Year core curricula as a means of eliminating sexual misconduct at USMMA
  • Increasing the transparency of the Merchant Marine Academy's efforts and rationale for implementing specific sexual misconduct policies

The task force said that Self Solutions' final report on its findings would be made public.

"We stand ready to support the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in developing a facts-based plan for eliminating sexual misconduct and ensuring that current and future midshipmen are effectively trained in a safe environment," Roberson said. "Self Solutions is the right company for the job given their extensive experience analyzing behaviors on ships and academy campuses."