Moving Forward

Stefanie Goebel
Stefanie Goebel 336 Comments
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Moving Forward Statement

From: Janie Mines USNA ‘80

Recently a group from the class of 1980 got together and did something many of us had never done ...we just talked. We shared many things, but most importantly, we discussed our feelings regarding the hurtful statements made by our classmate. We held several meetings. Some participated in person, others through email, messages were relayed...we just talked.

Our feelings covered the full spectrum of emotions. We had difficult conversations. We labored over every word. We were sometimes impolite but we worked through it. We questioned if this letter was the right thing to do and whether it would have the positive impact we desired. Knowing that despite our best efforts… we would never satisfy everyone and that we could not achieve perfection… we decided that doing nothing was not an option.

As the only Black woman in our class, I often felt isolated; like no one cared. With tears in my eyes as I write this, 44 years after this journey began, I truly feel like a member of the mighty Class of 1980. I am grateful to my classmates for sharing their diverse voices in the letter below.

While there may be nothing earth shattering in the words of this message, it expresses what we believe to be valid concerns and recommendations. The journey of its creation was one of the most significant events in my life. We are a family. We are classmates. We are Navy. We did something…

Janie Mines….a member of the Class of 1980!

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As the undersigned, we do not condone any remarks or behaviors that demean our fellow humans.

Clearly racist, misogynistic statements are not unique to any one individual. It is important that we better understand where these ideas come from--what experiences, emotions, and circumstances resulted in this expression. To do this, we must have frank, meaningful, and open conversations with diverse voices. Until we do this, we cannot be a mission effective team.

In light of this, we have the following concerns and recommendations and stand ready to be part of the solution.

  1. USNAAA:
    1. The Association’s treatment of this and analogous situations with individuals who have brought discredit to the Association has been inconsistent. There have been other alumni, including some distinguished members, whose words and actions deserved the same scrutiny and consequences.
    2. The leadership of the special committee established by the Alumni Association should include a Black graduate, particularly as this demographic was a specific target of recent offensive remarks. We are not questioning the qualifications of the currently assigned co-chairs, however, they have not walked in the shoes of Black midshipmen or alumni.
  2. Communications
    1. Conduct small Town Hall meetings as listening events and forums to share divergent views, discuss the impact of selective inclusivity and demonstrate the benefits of productive, difficult conversations.
    2. Collect and distribute personal stories of racist and sexist behavior experienced at USNA and beyond, similar to CNN video vignettes “The First Time I Realized I was Black.” Use these stories to help others recognize and alter behaviors incompatible with our core values. Include these vignettes in official publications like “Wave Tops” and “Shipmate” to reach all USNA graduates.
    3. Create a form of communication feedback, such as integrity hotlines, as a resource for alumni to communicate with USNAAA about their concerns and recommendations.
    4. Make USNA candidate application and acceptance statistics as well as USNAAA leadership application and election results available to alumni to improve transparency. Provide contextual information including objectives and overarching mission requirements that drive decision marking.
  3. Culture
    1. Intentionally seek a broad range of experience and perspective for any policy development or changes. Involvement by the widest spectrum of age, rank, genders, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other pertinent attributes to ensure policies and procedures are inclusive and appropriate to all affected by them.
    2. Actively seek out and eliminate microaggressions in USNA and USNAAA policies, activities, traditions, representations, marketing, publications, donations, and communications. Some examples of microaggressions include the Class of 1979’s use of Omnes Viri (All Male), a sign in the USNA Admission Office that reads BROTHERHOOD, (referring to the football team, but which may be misconstrued to mean that the Naval Academy is not for women), and buildings in the Yard named after slave owners.
  4. Development
    1. Every encounter and action in Bancroft Hall, on the sports field, in the classroom and each extracurricular activity must be an opportunity to identify implicit or structural biases and use that moment to listen, teach and improve.
    2. Review midshipmen education to ensure leadership and ethics courses contain education on the benefits of diversity for mission success and leading in a diverse environment.
    3. Ensure all USNA affiliated entities (such as USNAAA, USNAAA Chapters, Blue and Gold Officers, Parents’ Club, Special Interest Groups, and other groups that advocate on behalf of, or represent USNA) are welcoming and inclusive.
  5. Mentorship
    1. Seek out minority graduates and mentor them to become Alumni Association leaders. Encourage the use of the Alumni Mentoring Program to mentor proteges who do not look like the mentor.
    2. Provide a conduit to minority Alumni as a resource to midshipmen for conflict resolution or reporting racism, sexism, bigotry and microaggressions.
  6. As Individuals:
    1. Decide to do something to contribute to the wellbeing of others.
    2. Intentionally interact with those of a different demographic to facilitate personal growth and establish mutually beneficial relationships. Practice empathetic communications, seeking first to truly listen and understand, then to be understood.
    3. Educate ourselves using materials from multiple perspectives on topics regarding diversity, culture, history, and the experiences of other cultures
    4. Contact our Members of Congress requiring that all organizations receiving public funding represent the highest standards of performance, inclusiveness and equality in their workforce and the services provided to the public.

We will move beyond this specific incident and use this moment to make meaningful and lasting progress toward a more inclusive Naval Academy and Alumni Association.

We the undersigned welcome all cosigners that stand with us in our dedication to USNA and USNAAA. All are welcome.

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