Coast Guard Commandant Gives 'Full Attention' to Race Bias Allegations at Academy

Adm. Karl Schultz speaks during a change of command ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., June 1, 2018 (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Kelley)
Adm. Karl Schultz speaks during a change of command ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., June 1, 2018 (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Kelley)

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said Thursday he would convene a senior leadership meeting early next week to address allegations of race and gender bias against a faculty member at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

"This has my full attention. I will get very familiar with it," Schultz said of the allegations in a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report that a female faculty member, a lieutenant commander, was retaliated against for alleging that her superiors engaged in race and gender discrimination.

"We're going to dive into that," Schultz said of the IG report. "We're going to see some actions, what actions we can take, some recommendations. I'm absolutely committed to an environment where all employees feel valued."

Schultz said he had only seen a redacted version of the IG report but gave his "personal commitment that we will be accountable and responsive" in dealing with the matter. He added that he wanted to "understand the allegations of bullying, harassment" against the woman, who reported a hostile work environment at the school. "We take that very seriously. We want to protect the rights of whistleblowers."

Schultz, who became commandant in June, discussed the allegations with Military.com following an address at the National Press Club on his vision for the Coast Guard and the upcoming budget deliberations that could affect plans to bolster the service's numbers of icebreakers and cutters.

The IG report said "a preponderance of the evidence" backed up the complaints by the female officer that she received poor marks on an annual evaluation after charging that her superiors were discriminating against her.

The "totality of the evidence demonstrated that complainant would have received higher marks absent her complaints," the report stated. The IG's office recommended that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who has authority over the Coast Guard, order the evaluation be corrected.

The IG report also made reference to a complaint of bullying last January by another faculty member against an Academy department head. The department head, whose name was redacted, was removed from his post in April "due to a loss of confidence relating to the substantiated bullying allegation," according to the report.

The IG recommended that the Coast Guard require commanding officers to document -- in writing -- the reasons for their findings when investigating bullying and harassment complaints and also recommended additional training for all supervisors on the Coast Guard's bullying, harassment and discrimination policies.

In a joint statement Wednesday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, said the IG report was "a damning indictment of the Coast Guard Academy's handling of racial discrimination and harassment."

"We fully expect immediate, thorough and transparent steps to change this atmosphere of racial hostility and hold academy staff and officers accountable for their actions," the senators said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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