Turmoil at Maine Maritime Academy

I’ve been on this forum for years. Hopefully this doesn’t get me kicked off…
This email went out from the MMA Alumni Association today:

Dear MMA Alumni,

I am writing today to share a series of communications that have been sent out across campus over the last week, of which you may or may not be aware. As a member of our larger community, and in the interest of keeping you apprised of the current situation, I want you to be able to refer to first-hand information and want to encourage you to direct any related concerns to me to facilitate response as needed. Links to all of the messages referenced here are included below.

Last week we were made aware of a post on a website that alleged a sexual assault on the MMA campus. Included in the post were allegations of mishandling of the situation. In response to the website and the post, President Brennan sent a message to the MMA community on Thursday of last week.

Yesterday, President Brennan sent a follow-up community message including additional information. An excerpt from that message is below:

“I recognize that the sensitivities of all of us are heightened as we reflect upon the greater societal imperative to address the flaws in our culture; flaws in the way in which we treat one another be it with respect to race or gender or sexuality. I am committed to the protection of the reputation of MMA, but I also acknowledge that MMA is subject to its own history and that while we strive to make this a better place, we must admit our failings and take ownership for our part in bringing about societal change. The specific account that surfaced, although difficult to address in substance due to its vagueness, provides us with the opportunity to reflect upon what our responsibilities are and ensure that our culture is purged of its flaws and that we treat each individual with respect and dignity. This is how I feel and what I wish to happen from this matter, and I thank you for holding me, and indeed all of us, accountable."

The full messages are posted on the academy’s website.

The information source itself—the site on which the account is posted—is being reviewed by both state and federal law enforcement officers as well as an attorney specially assigned by the Maine Office of the Attorney General to advise the Academy.

Our Title IX Advisory Committee is engaged in organizing forums and a long-term action plan to address our campus culture. If you are interested in learning more about that, if you would like to participate, or if you have questions or concerns, please contact me so that I can facilitate response through the appropriate academy staff.

Sincerely,

Jeff Wright

Director, Alumni Relations

2 Likes

This is the MMA President’s 1st email:

September 10, 2020

Dear MMA Students, Faculty and Staff,

Maine Maritime Academy was recently subjected in an online blog post to derogatory allegations by an individual with a history of misrepresenting the handling of alleged sexual assault at maritime academies. The post is inaccurate. It neither accurately recounts any reported case at MMA nor accurately represents the Academy’s policies and procedures. Moreover, the person who posted the account has no connection to MMA and no individual has come forward to provide actionable information. Accordingly, this online posting is being reviewed by both state and federal law enforcement officers as well as an attorney specially assigned by the Maine Office of the Attorney General to advise the Academy.

I want to be clear that MMA takes all reports of sexual misconduct seriously and follows very specific procedures to protect the victim and ensure that our processes are followed. Regardless of the attempt by this online posting to defame certain MMA employees, I have full faith and confidence in each of their abilities to handle these and all other matters. We do not condone sexual misconduct and we handle all complaints in accordance with federal law.

We actively encourage and depend on individuals to come to us in the first instance with their concerns so that we can take all appropriate actions in a timely manner. Therefore, if you have any concerns about how you or another member of our community has been treated by the Academy, or if you have questions about how the academy addresses these issues, please promptly direct your communication to Title IX Coordinator, Elizabeth True (elizabeth.true@mma.edu; 207-326-2659), Dean of Students, Deidra Davis (deidra.davis@mma.edu; 207-326-2138), or Director of Human Resources, Carrie Margrave (carrie.margrave@mma.edu; 207-326-2665).

Thank you.

Dr. William J. Brennan

President

Maine Maritime Academy

1 Like

This is the President’s 2nd email:

September 14, 2020

Dear MMA Community,

I am following up on my email of last Friday to you. The post referenced in my message is troubling to me, and it has brought about questions and distress from our students, faculty, and staff.

It is clear from the response from our community that there are concerns about trust in our systems that support our students who are victims of sexual harassment or assault. Despite having processes and procedures in place, our systems need to be re-examined and we must re-commit to our values, to living our honor code, and above all, respecting one another in all interactions. We are prepared to assist any victim who brings a complaint forward and they will be assisted and guided with respect, compassion, and care.

It was not my intent to discount an account of sexual assault. The account to which I referred does not match a reported complaint that we received, but that does not mean that there is not actionable information that could come forward to be pursued.

In my haste to respond, and to try to correct information, I think my concern for the situation came across as lacking in compassion for those who may have been victims of harassment or assault. I take responsibility for that, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by that message. While there is legitimate concern about the source of the information contained in the post that prompted my message, I recognize that is not where my concern should lie, but with the underlying concerns raised by many of you.

Importantly, I want to say that I hear your concerns about our campus climate.

Harassment and assault should not be part of our culture. If a member of our community feels unsafe, they should have the support, the tools, and the information necessary to bring a complaint forward. Anyone who has been verbally or sexually assaulted should be assisted with support and care to pursue all of the options they have available.

We must work toward a shared vision for our campus culture. If we have flaws in our systems, we need to know what they are, and we need to be accountable for fixing them. We need to hear from current students about what they feel needs to change.

The Title IX Advisory Committee is seeking input now from students, faculty and staff through a series of listening sessions to address our campus culture. The first one is scheduled for this Wednesday, September 16 and additional forums are planned for later this month. If you have concerns or want to be involved, please attend one of the forums sponsored by the committee. I hope you will engage and share your ideas.

I recognize that the sensitivities of all of us are heightened as we reflect upon the greater societal imperative to address the flaws in our culture; flaws in the way in which we treat one another be it with respect to race or gender or sexuality. I am committed to the protection of the reputation of MMA, but I also acknowledge that MMA is subject to its own history and that while we strive to make this a better place, we must admit our failings and take ownership for our part in bringing about societal change. The specific account that surfaced, although difficult to address in substance due to its vagueness, provides us with the opportunity to reflect upon what our responsibilities are and ensure that our culture is purged of its flaws and that we treat each individual with respect and dignity. This is how I feel and what I wish to happen from this matter, and I thank you for holding me, and indeed all of us, accountable.

Sincerely,

President Brennan


Dr. William J. Brennan

President

Maine Maritime Academy

Castine, Maine 04420

1 Like

I’m curious why you would think that. You posted what seem to be genuine items, of interest to the schools alumni and the greater community of seafarers and you put it in an appropriate category. You didn’t make outrageous claims or accusations. So why would you think that?

On the other hand what do you think of the inciting incident and the administrations reaction? You think it inappropriate? Over reacting? Under reacting? Are you an Alumni? Do you have an interest in the subject beyond the academic? Has it been your direct observation on the ships \ companies to be a large problem? How is your company, crew, yourself handling it.

3 Likes

Sir,

I agree with you that this is an item of genuine interest to the community posted in the proper category and that there is no reason it should be deleted and no reason I should be punished for sharing this information with the community. Thank you for the support. I greatly appreciate it.

I went to a different MMA, but as an outsider I think the president’s second letter was much more thought out and edging towards the right direction in terms of response.

The 1st was completely unhinged.
Totally ignored the victims while making a non-denial denial and throwing out a bunch of empty threats. First is probably much closer to honesty. 2nd email reflects the heavy backlash he received from 1st and was probably written with much more help than first. . .
Sometimes people don’t realize that they are themselves the problem…

Hopefully I’m misunderstanding, and I’m not familiar with the original blog post so I’m definitely lacking some context on his response, but did he really just threaten legal action against a blog for publishing anonymous complaints? Thank God the dude only runs an educational institution, and not a local restaurant.

Dear CWH Patrons, Managers and Employees,
The Castine Waffle House was recently subjected in an online Yelp post to derogatory allegations by an individual with a history of misrepresenting the handling of breakfast products at wafflemaking institutions. The post is inaccurate. It neither accurately recounts any reported health code violations at CWH nor accurately represents the House’s policies and procedures. Moreover, the person who posted the account has no connection to CWH and no individual has come forward to report the use of inferior HFCS based-syrups at any of our locations. Accordingly, this online posting is being reviewed by both state and federal law enforcement officers as well as an attorney specially assigned by the Maine Office of the Attorney General to advise the House.
Thank you,
Chef William J Brennan
Wafflemaster in Chief
Castine Waffle House

2 Likes

Well I do agree with this

But I’m not seeing this

For me that first one does seem to strike a bit of a defensive posture but I’m not picking up unhinged. You may be attributing your perception of that first letter to malice when it might merely be a ham handed response from someone who may not have reflected long enough before putting pen to paper.

I suppose we will all have to wait to see if law enforcement can get to the bottom of the report and equally important if the occasion of this case really does bring change to their culture as outlined in the second letter.

1 Like

Same here but I took it to mean whatever was in this “account” was now an investigation into the allegations to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice not the blogger. You really think they are going after the blogger?

Like I said, hopefully I’m wrong there, and the wording definitely gives him room to say that obviously he meant investigating the allegations, but in the context of his first paragraph it kinda seems like he meant they were looking into the blogger.

He starts by saying that the allegations are derogatory, then says that the source is unreliable, then says they’re inaccurate, clarifies that they’re inaccurate and baseles, then says nobody has complained in any actionable way. It’d be a strange turnaround to follow that up with an investigation into those allegations. He also refers to them as defamation in the 2nd paragraph.

My analysis is also a bit colored by the last few days of posts on here. John’s posts on the history of legal threats at gCaptain makes it seem like going after the blogger may be standard operating procedure for some.

Could this be the source of (some of) the cease and desist letters that guy that dude banned?

I guess we’re pissing up a rope without the original allegation. I can’t say it is not baseless, derogatory, unreliable or inaccurate. I haven’t seen it. I’m pretty sure presented with an allegation not able to be investigated by the in house officials responsible due to lack of details or reports they had no choice but to follow their process and report it to proper authority for investigation. I assume interviews will follow and I would hope all who have information including the blogger would assist to ensure justice is served.

I would post a link to the original story that started it all but I would probably get banned from what I’ve seen, but if you google “sexual assault coverup at Maine Maritime Academy” the story should be one of the first links

Lol…yeah…he made some scary sounding but probably ultimately empty threats. Reads like he just sat down and let ‘er rip. And then the backlash came hard and fast…

It’s not hard to find. It was posted on here, but I believe that post was one of the ones that was deleted.

Sexual Assault Coverup at Maine Maritime Academy

Well, it’s not hard to find if you’ve been following these shenanigans for a few weeks, and know where it all comes from…

3 Likes

Evidently this letter is legit.

President Brennan,

I’d like to make it clear that the purpose of this response is not to further propagate the derogatory allegations of our institution’s mystery assailant. I’ve interacted with a couple of the MMA employees presumed to be targeted before and from my point of view, they’re dedicated professionals committed to doing the best that they can. Here’s the thing though: my personal point of view of somebody’s else’s sexual assault complaint doesn’t matter, and quite frankly, neither does yours. Your campus-wide response to this blog post disappoints me but it does not surprise me. In situations such as these, it is status quo for any institution to fall to the defensive in an effort to mitigate any forthcoming PR train wreck. I hoped for more from my alma mater and employer. You’ve informed us that the blog post does not accurately recount any reported case at MMA. The big takeaway from the post was that nothing ever even made it as far as being reported.

I’ve never been physically penetrated by somebody else’s reproductive organ but I suspect that if I were, it’s not something I would want to re-live years later under the scrutinizing eye of a disbelieving public – even less so if the institution sworn to protect me from such an assault has made it abundantly clear that they have the full, unbiased, and endless support of both the federal and state government in opposition to my complaint.

This is a well-documented phenomenon, and this situation exemplifies why no one has come forward to provide actionable information thus far. Why are we encouraging students to come see us first in the event of a sexual assault? If any other part of our bodies are physically penetrated with an object against our will do we not seek medical attention elsewhere, and immediately?

The reality is that Maine Maritime Academy does indeed have a cultural and institutional response problem. My wife was once employed as staff at the Academy. Among other reasons (of a similar nature), she resigned because she tired of hearing students’ light-hearted stories of date-raping women over the weekend. My sister was drugged (and presumably raped) at a party in Portland by an MMA student some ten years ago. I’m not the only one with stories like this. MMA has a huge closet filled with sordid skeletons of a sexually violent nature. Anybody who’s actually gone to school here has heard them all. It’s not fake news.

I commend Dr. True’s effort toward changing the culture on campus. It was abundantly clear during our recent Title IX training that the government is doing less to protect victims of sexual assault. We can do better than the minimum federal requirements. I think it is time that we transcend the standard response of “reviewing policies” and “interpreting data” and actually start driving real change. We can begin with an open and honest conversation about what really happens on campus.

[Redacted]
Assistant Professor
Engineering Department

3 Likes

Just a point of order: assault isn’t a matter of ‘race or gender or sexuality.’ Its violence. We all have biographical categories such as race, gender, and sexuality; but unless we are talking about hate crime the victim’s category doesn’t matter. If someone gets shot, its probably not relevant that the person was a mixed-race, cis-mal who prefers to hook up with women. Let’s not muddy the waters, it isn’t helpful.

5 Likes

Now they are holding online forums for “women and non-binary” students only. The largest portion of the student body is not being included in these forums and they are experiencing a lot of pushback which I think is highly justified given these circumstances

Wait, by “largest portion” do you mean men? If someone is hosting a forum potentially for women to open up about unreported pervasive sexual assault you think the entire pool of possible aggressors should be included?

2 Likes