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Lawmakers continue to press Coast Guard Academy for update on addressing inequities

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard band march in formation at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

RICHARD BRAHM/U.S. COAST GUARD ACADEMY

By JULIA BERGMAN | The Day, New London, Conn. | Published: June 14, 2018

(Tribune News Service) — Connecticut lawmakers, joined by some of their colleagues in Congress, are asking the head of the Coast Guard how the service plans to address "racial disparities" at the Coast Guard Academy.

Two separate letters were sent Wednesday to Adm. Karl L. Schultz, who took over as commandant of the Coast Guard on June 1.

The first came from Reps. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, and Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, who said they were "deeply troubled" by the results of a report that examined educational outcomes at the academy.

The Coast Guard Academy is the first federal service academy to use the process, known as the Equity Scorecard. The report from the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California found gaps in graduation rates, disciplinary actions and class pass rates for minorities and women.

"We would like to know the specific steps the academy will take in the wake of these urgent findings to identify, address and ultimately eliminate the disparities contributing to inequitable outcomes," the representatives wrote.

Though the academy does not fall into their districts, Cummings and Thompson have long followed the academy's efforts to expand diversity and implement equal opportunity programs. Courtney spent a day at the academy last fall hearing from cadets after a report in The Day indicated discrimination was a systemic problem at the academy.

The lawmakers requested to review by July 13 all documents relating to allegations of harassment or bullying made by any student or faculty member at the academy during the past three years, the results of any investigations into these allegations and "the terms of any settlements reached." They noted that they are "troubled" that the academy recently removed the head of its management department after he was found to have bullied a subordinate but allowed him to remain a member of the teaching staff.

They also asked for a briefing by July 20 on the steps being taken to respond to results of the Equity Scorecard.

"At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy we take any and all reports of discrimination seriously, and will remain steadfast in our efforts to provide a climate that promotes a culture of respect and inclusion," academy Superintendent Rear Adm. James E. Rendón said in a statement.

He noted that the academy hosted staff from the congressional delegation this spring, and also met earlier this week with members of the local chapter of the NAACP, "to confirm that incidents reported to them mirror those reported to Academy officials in accordance with Coast Guard policy."

On June 7, Rendón penned an opinion editorial in The Day noting the academy's "commitment" and efforts to make the institution more diverse and inclusive.

"Most encouraging is the increased parity we see as it relates to retention of the various ethnic, race, and gender cohorts, in each of the current classes, driving us toward more equitable outcomes, as it relates to graduation rates of our students," he said. "We have done a lot of great work, with effect, but we continue to work hard to do even better."

The academy’s Class of 2018 included 18 black cadets, the largest number of black graduates in the institution’s history.

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also wrote to Schultz, the commandant, on Wednesday reiterating the request by Courtney, Cummings and Thompson for information about the Coast Guard's efforts to "increase diversity at the academy and improve academic outcomes of all cadets."

They noted Schultz's commitment during his April 17 confirmation hearing to address allegations of discrimination and sexual assault at the academy.

"We are grateful for the efforts of the USCG to address these issues and the vital role the USCG has in protecting U.S. citizens from harm," the senators wrote. "However, we hear from constituents and from public reports of continuing, troubling problems that must be addressed systematically and fully. Only through a thorough discussion of these concerns and concrete positive steps can the USCG attain its goals of fair and equal treatment of all," they wrote.

©2018 The Day (New London, Conn.)
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