Good afternoon Northwestern Michigan College family,
Over the past three weeks, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Maritime Administration, and the entire U.S. maritime industry has been addressing the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment onboard U.S. merchant vessels. This work has been necessitated by the report of a serious sexual assault of a midshipman enrolled at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Due to the seriousness of this incident, I feel it’s important to address this issue with you. First, I want you to know we stand with the survivors of sexual assault and harassment and condemn the actions reported in this incident. Second, I want to share how Northwestern Michigan College and our Great Lakes Maritime Academy have been working to improve the safety of our cadets.
Safety, onshore and while underway has always been a top priority for the College and the Academy. The initiatives and best practices we have developed and adopted over the past decade, in an effort to make certain the cadet experience is positive and free of harassment, include the following:
- The Office of Student Life provides in-person Title IX/Campus SaVE Act training to all cadets prior to their first classes. This training is again provided to all cadets at the end of second semester, subsequent to sailing onboard the Training Ship State of Michigan.
- All cadets complete Social Responsibility training, as approved by the U.S. Coast Guard during their first year at the Academy.
- Every cadet meets with the GLMA Superintendent individually prior to sailing on a commercial vessel. The superintendent provides an avenue for safe reporting, including his and the Dean of Students contact information if there are any incidents. There is also an option to report anonymously.
- Great Lakes Maritime Academy Sea Project Syllabi have been amended to include contact information for reporting inappropriate behavior.
- NMC now administers a survey at the end of every sea project to allow students to anonymously describe their experience.
- The Academy staff has adopted the practice of reaching out to each cadet who is sailing onboard a commercial vessel via text message, to ensure their safety.
We are also committed to continuous improvement. After listening to alumni of the maritime program, during the last year we’ve convened a cross campus team to:
- Further collaborate with GLMA, NMC Student Life, and the staffs of the other state maritime academies to share best practices in order to prevent harassment and assault onboard training ships
- Continue to find ways to assist cadets to adequately prepare for their sea projects, and ensure their safety.
In early November, the GLMA Board of Visitors will hold its annual meeting. The topic of ensuring a safe experience for cadets will be a primary agenda item. Among the initiatives we will begin, that Board of Visitors members have committed to assisting with, include:
- Vetting ships that carry GLMA cadets using a system developed by the federal government for use by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and
- Visiting vessels while cadets are onboard.
These actions are important and critical to the success of the College, the Academy, and the cadets. I want to personally assure you that we take these concerns seriously at every level of the organization. I have been particularly impressed with the commitment of the entire faculty and staff of Northwestern Michigan College’s Great Lakes Maritime Academy, and their dedication to addressing this issue. We are committed to our cadet’s safety and we are continuously working to improve our learning environment. It is critically important to me that all of our students feel safe while enrolled at the College, preparing to serve the nation as officers in the U.S. Merchant Marine.
We are not alone in this important work. Attached you will find a letter from the Consortium of State Maritime Academies which was sent last night to Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley. This letter states that this recent incident, “is not a single academy incident, nor is it a single shipping company incident, nor a single shipping union incident,” and that as one of the nation’s six state maritime academies we are “deeply committed to working with the entire maritime industry to actively address sexual harassment and assault.” I am confident together we can make positive change.
Nick Nissley, Ed.D. | President | Northwestern Michigan College
Release date: October 15, 2021
For more information:
Associate Vice President of Public Relations, Marketing and Communications