Coast Guard Academy struggles with issues of race

In the fall of 2017, The Day published an article about the academic and social environment for minority cadets at the Coast Guard Academy. Defense reporter Julia Bergman interviewed four minority cadets, who requested anonymity so that they could speak openly without fear of retaliation. They described racial slurs, ignorant comments and instances of disrespect as common on campus and said that reports of discrimination were not taken as seriously by academy leadership as sexual assault and drinking, for example.

The article also included data received from the academy that showed that while the student body was becoming more diverse, minority students were not graduating at the same rates as their white counterparts. A group of alumni wrote to the superintendent at the time saying the climate at the institution, which develops the Coast Guard's future officers, was the dominant factor affecting retention of minority cadets.

The Day also interviewed the then superintendent and the academy’s chief diversity officer, who said the academy was working to make real change in response to the issue, including using an assessment tool to look at educational outcomes based on race and gender, the first service academy to undergo the assessment.

The findings, released in the spring of 2018, showed inequities existed. Black cadets, for example, had much higher disenrollment rates and were more likely to receive tougher disciplinary actions as compared to their white counterparts.

Since then, The Day has covered the academy’s response to the findings, including establishing a task force to implement the recommendations in the equity report, and subsequent questions raised about how the academy, and the Coast Guard at large, handles discrimination complaints and racial disparities.

These issues were the subject of an 18-month congressional probe, and two separate inspector general reviews. The investigation by Congress, which was recently completed, found the Coast Guard did not properly investigate complaints of harassment and bullying and failed to hold officials accountable for carrying out deficient and incomplete investigations.

Since the fall of 2018, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General has been reviewing how the academy responds to allegations of race-based harassment and plans to issue a report with its findings in 2020.

A separate report from the inspector general, released in late 2018, found that Coast Guard officials failed to protect a black female officer who made discrimination and harassment complaints against her superiors. That female officer spoke publicly about what happened to her in an exclusive interview with The Day in summer 2019.

The Impact

An investigation by Congress, which was recently completed, found the Coast Guard did not properly investigate complaints of harassment and bullying and failed to hold officials accountable for carrying out deficient and incomplete investigations.

Since the fall of 2018, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General has been reviewing how the academy responds to allegations of race-based harassment and plans to issue a report with its findings in 2020.

A separate report from the inspector general, released in late 2018, found that Coast Guard officials failed to protect a black female officer who made discrimination and harassment complaints against her superiors.

 

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