DHS Investigates Allegations of Bias at Coast Guard Academy

File image courtesy USCGA

By The Maritime Executive 11-05-2018 11:35:39

The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation into alleged patterns of racial discrimination at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The inquiry, which has already been running for several months, seeks to examine how the academy handles incidents of racially-motivated bias and harassment. 

The school is one of the five federal service academies, and it trains the Coast Guard's future officers. The Army, Navy and Air Force academies are overseen by the Department of Defense, but the Coast Guard academy is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The fifth, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, falls under the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration. 

In recent years, the Coast Guard Academy's African-American cadets have raised concerns about allegedly widespread use of racial slurs on campus. The number of African-American students is small - less than twenty individuals per class, and often fewer - and their graduation rates have been falling. 

In 2017, the CGA hired the USC Center for Urban Education to examine patterns of racial inequity on campus. The Center's report found that African-American students experienced inequitable outcomes more frequently than other ethnic groups on campus; in particular, these cadets were subject to more stringent levels of disciplinary action, including sanctions levied by their classmates for minor infractions, and have been "consistently less likely to graduate" over the past five years. 

Three congressmen and two senators have taken up the issue, and have written to the commandant of the Coast Guard to provide documents and information about how the academy handles racial-bias incidents. In addition, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has introduced a bill to establish a commission to address the alleged disparities and to improve the USCGA's recruitment and outreach efforts. The legislation would also require congressional nominations for half of each incoming class. At present, the USCGA is the only service academy that does not require congressional nominations.