Coast Guard investigating former cadet’s claim of misconduct by Sulmasy
New London ― U.S. Coast Guard Academy officials informed academy employees Friday that a former cadet’s allegations of inappropriate conduct on the part of a former academy law professor were unknown to the academy until CNN aired them Thursday night.
The cable news network, which also posted an online version of the report, quoted a 2011 academy graduate, Melissa McCafferty, who said then-Capt. Glenn Sulmasy, an academy professor, verbally harassed her, commented on her appearance and made sexual comments.
Reached Friday, McCafferty repeated what she told CNN, saying she didn’t tell academy officials about Sulmasy’s conduct at the time because a female faculty member advised her to keep quiet. The faculty member told her Sulmasy was “untouchable” and that complaining about him could “jeopardize (her) career.”
“I was told nothing would happen to him, and when you’re 19 years old, you listen,” McCafferty said Friday.
After graduating from the academy, McCafferty told CNN, she asked Sulmasy to write her a letter of recommendation for law school. She said he texted back, saying he would write a letter “if she sent him pictures of herself, telling her he had always loved her foot tattoo.”
“I stopped the conversation and found a letter elsewhere … It made me feel very dirty and disrespected and very dehumanized,” McCafferty told CNN.
In an email sent Friday to “the Coast Guard Academy Community,” Capt. Eva Van Camp, the academy’s assistant superintendent, referenced “recent news accounts” of past sexual assaults at the academy “and how leadership did not address them correctly at the time.” Van Camp is serving as acting superintendent while Rear Adm. Michael Johnston, the superintendent, is on personal leave.
“The new allegations from the media report, which had not been previously reported to the Coast Guard, have been referred to the Coast Guard Investigative Service,” Van Camp wrote, referring to McCafferty’s allegations. “Furthermore, Mr. Sulmasy will not be allowed aboard the Coast Guard Academy campus.”
Van Camp’s email is similar to a message signed by Johnston and posted on the academy’s official Facebook page and on other social media.
“Every survivor (of sexual assault) has the right to be heard, for their claims to be investigated, and for the military justice system to take appropriate action,” Van Camp wrote. “Reporting incidents of sexual assault, hazing, bullying or harassment can be extraordinarily challenging. I want to clear the path for those who may suffer in silence. You can come to any member of the Academy’s senior leadership team at any time to report individuals who do not meet Coast Guard standards.”
CNN also reported that records show Sulmasy exchanged hundreds of sexually suggestive text messages with an academy student, prompting Coast Guard attorneys to recommend he be accused of conduct unbecoming an officer and willful dereliction of duty, charges that were never filed.
In another case, a rape victim at the academy told investigators Sulmasy had advised her not to pursue the matter, according to CNN.
Sulmasy, who left the academy in 2015, is on a voluntary leave of absence from his job as president of Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., which has hired an independent third party to investigate his conduct at the academy. His attorney has denied the allegations reported by CNN.
The academy Friday provided a detailed list of Sulmasy’s relationship with the Coast Guard, starting with his attending the academy from 1984 to 1988. He served as an assistant judge advocate in the Academy Legal Office from 1997 to 2001 and was a member of the faculty in 2001-03, 2004-06 and 2007-15, including chairman of the Department of Humanities from 2010 to 2015.
Sulmasy left the academy to become provost and chief academic officer at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., and became president of Nichols College in 2021.
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