Cummings and Speier Respond to IG Report on Sexual Assault and Harassment at Merchant Marine Academy
Washington, DC (Oct. 27, 2014) – Today, Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Jackie Speier (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements, responded to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of the Inspector General regarding the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s (USMMA) efforts to combat sexual assault and harassment. The DOT Inspector General produced this report in response to a formal request made by Reps. Cummings and Speier in April 2013.
“According to the Inspector General’s troubling report, the Merchant Marine Academy has not developed systems and procedures that should be the foundational components of an effective program to combat sexual assault and harassment,” said Cummings. “I hope the Academy will quickly implement the Inspector General’s recommendations and take every step necessary to ensure that there is zero tolerance at the Academy for sexual assault or harassment of any kind.”
“Despite national and congressional attention on sexual assault, the Merchant Marine Academy demonstrated it has a totally inadequate system to prevent and respond to these violent crimes,” said Speier. “I will continue to hold USMMA’s feet to the fire to ensure that they implement the Inspector General’s recommendations.”
The DOT Inspector General identified significant shortcomings in the USMMA’s implementation and oversight of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program. Among other shortcomings, the Inspector General found that USMMA has not: (1) implemented the metrics necessary to determine the effectiveness of its SAPR, (2) established effective recordkeeping practices, (3) issued the academic program year reports on sexual assault and harassment required by law in a timely manner, or (4) developed specific procedures for collecting evidence related to sexual assault.
The Inspector General concluded that “many standard operating procedures . . . essential for effective SAPR program management are incomplete” and “[a] lack of clear oversight authority and responsibility undermine USMMA’s efforts to address sexual assault and harassment.” The Inspector General made nine recommendations for improving USMMA’s SAPR program.
On October 17, USMMA released its 2012-2013 Academic Program Year Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault, which indicates that there were four reports of sexual assault in the 2012-2013 academic year, compared to no such reports in the previous academic year. The Department of Transportation has argued that this increase “may be attributed to a higher level of awareness as a result of programmatic enhancements made at the beginning of this reporting period.”