LEADing Change

LEADing Change at Maritime College

As a public university and institution of higher education, Maritime College is making every effort to achieve a community that is anchored in respect, civility, and compassion – core values critical to the makeup of the College. While the free exchange of ideas is encouraged at Maritime College, it is important to note that hate speech tears apart the substance of the College identity and deeply harms every member of the campus community. The College strongly condemns all forms of racism, racist behavior and bias. 

During his time as U.S. President, Harry S. Truman underwent a personal transformation when he desegregated the U.S. armed forces on July 26, 1948. His executive order stated, “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” He also signed an executive order to desegregate the federal workforce on that same day.  This was monumental for a former military captain who supported segregation when he was elected president. Despite personal views formed during his upbringing in once pro-slavery Missouri, Truman understood that in order to defeat a common enemy the military could not be a house divided.  It would need to harness and promote the best talent, regardless of race or color. Although Maritime College is not immune to the broader fractures facing society today, and on some days the College will fall short of its goal, the Maritime College community response to all forms of racism is notably as important as President Truman’s. The College response should reflect dignity, civility and a collective resolve to make Maritime College a place where everyone is welcome and included. 

The following is a proposed framework that will LEAD to systemic changes at Maritime College to ensure it is a place where each person is valued.

Diversity

LISTEN

First, we must listen. We must listen to each other with open minds. We must listen with an attitude of mutual respect.  We must learn to listen with an intent of understanding not only the words, but what is behind the words.

Every individual who makes up the fabric of the Maritime College community holds their own unique perspective and experience. The goal of listening is to hear the voices of those who have been silenced including our students of color, LGBTQ+, immigrants, first generation students, etc. Time must taken to understand these various experiences and perspectives if we are to recognize the value held by each member of the College community. 

EDUCATE

Education is a continuous process and Maritime College supports the ongoing pursuit of knowledge as an academic institution.  Work will begin with Academic Departments to infuse topics on race, diversity, structural inequity, and multi-cultural awareness across the curriculum. The LEAD 101 curriculum will be reviewed to begin the discussion around these topics, and look for follow-on courses later in the curriculum to re-visit them. Changes to non-academic programming, as well as the curriculum, will be examined.

While freedom of speech is protected, it is not without consequences to individuals and institutions. Hateful and offensive speech does not align with the core values at Maritime College and is destructive to the very fabric of the community. Freedom of expression and the potential outcomes of free speech is a topic that will be further discussed as a campus community. 

The College will require those who harm the inclusive climate of the campus to repair the damage with the adoption of a restorative justice program. Restorative justice is a system that focuses on reconciliation with victims and the community rather than focusing on punishment. The program will be comprised of students, faculty, administrators, and staff who voluntarily serve to provide direct support to any individual impacted by prejudice-based aggression. This may include providing assistance with reporting bias, guidance through the investigative process, and access to safety and support resources. When appropriate, it may also include facilitating restorative conversations between affected parties to promote healing and learning outcomes

The various differences among all in the College community is what make each individual unique and valuable. On a regular basis, Anti-Bias education and training will be provided to the College community to better understand one another's differences and challenge stereotypes and other forms of discrimination.

Annual training for all faculty, staff, and students will be conducted on the reporting of harassment, bullying, and bias. The training will include the different mechanisms by which to report, what happens to a report, and what happens after a report.

ACT

All must be treated as members of a common community including those who come from races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation and other protected categories and religious beliefs different from one's own.

A Campus Climate Task Force will be established to identify actions that must be taken to improve the climate and culture at Maritime College. This Task Force will include faculty, staff, and student representation from across the College, and will seek input from alumni and industry.

Actions must be deliberate regarding diversity and inclusion. While diversity enhances a campus climate, inclusion activates diversity and allows the campus climate to reach its full potential. Responsibility for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion does not reside solely in one office. Rather, it rests across all aspects of the campus. Accountability will be ensured at all levels. Campus administrators, faculty, and staff must all demonstrate they are advancing equity and diversity, eliminating bias, and ensuring an inclusive campus climate.

The College will review and revise, if necessary, all its policies and procedures for consistency and alignment with College’s Core values, as well as SUNY policy and State law.

The College will conduct a comprehensive review of the Regiment, including INDOC. This review will include input from external reviewers.

The College will provide support to those who were subjected to harassment, bullying, and bias.

DISCUSS

There should be multiple venues for the College community to discuss the issues of diversity, race, and social-economic equality.

Individuals should be able to express their opinions in a respectful and civil manner, and others should similarly respect the opinions they express.

The status of systemic change at Maritime College must continually be discussed. Is progress being made in creating an inclusive climate and culture? Where is the College falling short? What additional actions need to be taken?

This is a continuous and cyclical process that requires all to be active participants in a critical time in history. It is an important first step in a journey towards enacting change through discussing, listening, further educating ourselves, and additional actions that will result in a respectful, inclusive, and compassionate community. 

Campus Climate Task Force

The Task Force is charged with offering specific recommendations on how the College can implement meaningful institutional change.  It is also charged with recommending approaches that enable an effective response to incidents of bigotry and intolerance.  Attached is a document describing the charge of the Task Force, which also details the expectations and deliverables of its members.  Each individual who makes up the Task Force must be dedicated to making improvements that lead toward the elimination of racism, bias and harassment at Maritime College.

Campus Climate Task Force Charge

Building a community of trust will take time and effort. Building a community free of bias, discrimination and hate speech will take time and effort. Building a community where no one fears retaliation will take time and effort. Nevertheless, Maritime College is steadfastly committed to enacting positive change. The Campus Climate Task Force is charged with making specific recommendations on how Maritime College can implement meaningful institutional change toward a more diverse and inclusive campus climate. One that fosters greater respect and understanding. The Task Force is also charged with recommending approaches that enable us to respond effectively to incidents of bigotry and intolerance.

Campus Climate Task Force Recommendations and College Response

August 4, 2021

Maritime College Community,

In December 2020, I announced the formation of a Campus Climate Task Force charged with making specific recommendations on how Maritime College can implement meaningful institutional change toward a more diverse and inclusive campus climate.  One that fosters greater respect and understanding.  The Task Force was also charged with recommending approaches that enable us to respond effectively to incidents of bigotry and intolerance.  Finally, the Task Force was asked to make recommendations along three timelines:

  1. Recommendations that can be accomplished immediately;

  2. Recommendations that could be accomplished within 6-12 months; and

  3. Aspirational recommendations.

In response to their charge, the Task Force has recommended the following short-term actions that should be implemented during the 2021-2022 academic year.  These recommendations are listed in order of priority, as determined by the Task Force.  I accept these recommendations, am committed to their implementation, and have taken the actions listed below in response.  The President’s Cabinet will monitor the progress in implementing these recommendations and provide updates to the campus community through Town Halls, email, and the College’s website.

Campus Climate Task Force Recommended Short-Term Actions

  1. Expand our current diversity, anti-bias, and anti-harassment training of residential advisors and the regimental student leadership, including squad leaders and indoctrination officers
    Response: Director of Housing and Commandant of Cadets tasked with developing additional diversity, anti-bias, and anti-harassment education and training of residential advisors and the regimental student leadership.

  2. Hire an ombudsperson to support the campus community in an advisory/training capacity on a daily basis and lead campus response efforts
    Response: AVP for Human Resource Services and Dean of Students tasked with examining different support and advocacy models across SUNY campuses, including Ombudsperson, ALANA (African, Latinx, Asian and Native American) Coordinator, and CDO, and providing recommendation to the Personnel Review Committee.

  3. Transparent procedures for reporting bias incidents such that reporter can be anonymous and also track status of their complaint
    Response: AVP for Human Resource Services, working in concert with senior leadership, will establish task force to review and assess Maritime College’s Bias Incident Reporting system.  Task force will review other SUNY campus systems, consult SUNY General Counsel’s Office, and engage IT to determine possible solutions, and provide findings and recommendations to the Planning Budget and Assessment Committee (PBAC).

  4. A standing Campus Climate Committee focused on overseeing campus-wide justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion [JEDI]
    Response: CDO tasked with examining standing committee models across SUNY campuses and providing recommendations for committee charge and structure to PBAC.

  5. Increase transparency regarding violations of the Student Code of Conduct and the Regimental Rules and Regulations
    Response: Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets tasked with considering how to increase transparency while maintaining individual students’ right to privacy, and providing recommendations to President’s Cabinet.

  6. Write/adopt uniform diversity statement to all institutional syllabi; should include a section on diversity, inclusion, protected speech, and harassment
    Response: Provost tasked with developing statement on diversity, inclusion, protected speech, and harassment, and providing statement to Academic Council for inclusion in all syllabi beginning in Fall 2021.

  7. Transparency in HR procedures/investigations
    Response: AVP for Human Resource Services tasked with considering how to increase transparency in accordance with the collective bargaining agreements covering terms and conditions of employment while balancing privacy and due process rights, and providing recommendations to President’s Cabinet.

  8. Review and update the uniform and grooming standards so that they are more inclusive and aligned with the New York State Human Rights Law
    Response: Commandant of Cadets tasked with providing analysis of grooming standards/regulations at all other U.S. maritime and service academies, and present findings and recommendations to President’s Cabinet.  Recommendations to include messaging to incoming students on process a student may follow if requesting accommodations based on gender, ethnic, religion and/or other bases, beginning perhaps informally with incoming students in Fall 2021, have process formalized by Fall 2022.

  9. Expanded professional development for faculty and staff members & improvement of course offerings
    Response: Provost and Academic Council to enhance institutional and local professional development opportunities and expectations.  Provost to work with Curriculum Committee and develop charge to review and make recommendations, including 3-year implementation plan. 

  10. Add a session on diversity and inclusion to the first faculty meeting of the academic year
    Response: Faculty meeting may not be optimal venue for session on diversity and inclusion due to time constraints and lack of staff attendance.  Provost and CDO tasked with incorporating session on diversity and inclusion into “Semester Launch” Week activities for Fall 2021, with additional offerings for future Semester Launch weeks.  Provost tasked with incorporating session on diversity and inclusion to Academic Council offsite in August 2021 as well as to future AC meetings.  Additionally, in accordance the SUNY Equity Action Plan a formalized Model Diversity Training Program is forthcoming for implementation by SUNY campuses.

  11. Diverse hiring practices to be implemented with all new searches in accordance with SUNY policies and recommendations 
    Response: Several changes have already been made to search processes, including advertising positions in venues that will reach diverse candidates and requiring diversity statements from candidates for all searches.  AVP for Human Resource Services tasked with continuing to examine search policies and procedures to ensure diverse applicant pools.

  12. Create a communication plan to keep the Maritime community abreast of all the progress the taskforce is making.  When public crises occur (public health, violence, racial injustice, unrest, tragedy), College’s central response should be issued within 24 hours of the event occurring.
    Response: Director of Communications tasked with reviewing SUNY system and other SUNY campuses policies and strategies, and developing communications strategy and plan. 

  13. Develop mandatory small training videos/discussions for all students and faculty
    Response: AVP for Human Resource Services and Title IX Committee tasked to identify and review readily available online resources, and develop “library” of resources to lead classroom discussions as well as provide standalone training.  Additional materials are forthcoming under the formalized Model Diversity Training Program.

  14. Sibling Program: A program where an upper-classmen can volunteer to be paired with a freshman to guide the incoming student around the school
    Response: Dean of Students and Commandant tasked with expanding upper-class mentoring program used during Summer Sea Term into a mentoring program for all incoming freshmen (civilian and regimental) students starting Fall 2022.  Review other institutions’ best practices re: peer (and blended) mentoring programs.

  15. Work with Chartwells to improve dining options for students with restricted diets
    Response: Student Government standing “Food Committee” meets with Chartwells on regular basis to discuss student concerns regarding food service and options.  Dean of Student Affairs and Student Government will continue to work with Chartwells to assess dining options for students with restricted diets.  Dean of Students and Student Government will improve communications with students regarding process for students to request additional dining options. 

  16. Add a question on diversity and inclusion to student evaluations
    Response: Student Policies Committee (SPC) and Assessment Committee tasked with considering including question on diversity and inclusion to student evaluations.  Review approaches (including wording) used by other institutions and best practices for collection of useful feedback.  SPC to present recommendation at Faculty Meeting.

I am grateful to the Task Force for their time, effort, and commitment to establishing an inclusive and respectful campus climate at Maritime College that is free from bias, harassment, and discrimination.  As the Task Force continues their work through the Fall Semester, they will provide a report on additional long-term recommendations at the end of the semester, which will be made available under this LEADing Change web page.

I look forward to engaging the campus community and sharing more on these important issues through Town Halls, faculty meetings, and student government.

All the best,

RADM Michael Alfultis, USMS, Ph.D.
President