At least three members of the first advisory council at a U.S. service academy that is under fire for wokeness from conservative lawmakers boast expertise in or commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Congress in 2022 required the department to establish the advisory council in response to longstanding safety and health issues at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), intending for the group to provide recommendations to the Department of Transportation (DOT) secretary on “continued improvements” at the academy. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced 13 members appointed to the council on Wednesday, including a DEI administrator and officials who have committed to upholding “racial justice” and cracking down on the service’s gender gap, according to a DCNF review.
New members include “experts in administering institutions of higher learning; sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention and response; infrastructure and facilities management; and diversity, equity, and inclusion,” a DOT press release states.
Among members of the new advisory council is Wayne Gersie, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Michigan Tech University. In calling for widespread buy-in on “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Sense of belonging (DEIS),” Gersie doubled down on “the moral and educational imperative for diversity” in a 2020 blog post.
“Get in the game or get left behind,” he said.
Council members also include Lynn Rosenthal, recently announced director of sexual and gender-based violence at the Department of Health and Human Services. Rosenthal’s website promotes her as “linking gender and social justice” and “committed to racial justice.”
Also tapped is Ally Cedeno, founder and president of Women Offshore, a USMMA graduate whose organization centers on supporting a more inclusive environment for women in a male-dominated field.
Cedeno said she would like to see companies in the maritime industry “publicly state their diversity goals and how they create an inclusive environment” in an interview with BCD Travel.
Women Offshore plans to host an “Inclusion Summit” for “women+” in August, according to a social media post.
“For the past two years, we have been working to address urgent challenges at the USMMA, and to provide its cadets with the resources and support they need and deserve,” Buttigieg said after announcing the advisory council appointments.
Lack of governance and effective leadership has plagued USMMA for years, a 2021 report from the National Academy of Public Administration found. The academy has also come under scrutiny for systemic sexual harassment and failed to fulfill promises to address the “culture of fear” present at the academy, CNN reported.
At the same time, Republican representatives of the Anti-Woke Caucus lambasted the academy’s leaders on Monday over a 2020 social media statement from USMMA sexual assault response director Anton Tripolskii, Fox News reported.
“Misogyny and racism grow from the same white, male root,” Tripolskii said.
The latest attack came amid a wider string of criticism for the institution’s increasingly woke culture under Buttigieg and Superintendent Vice Adm. Joanna Nunan, sparked when school administrators covered up a painting depicting Christ walking on water toward merchant mariners at sea, according to Fox News.
USMMA trains and educates Merchant Marine officers who provide critical supplies to the armed services during wartime and support U.S. maritime trade in peacetime.
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