California State University Maritime Academy – Cal Maritime – is one of only a handful of degree-offering maritime academies in the nation. Located on the shores of San Francisco Bay, the institution is brimming with opportunity for students pursuing maritime careers, with soaring post-grad employment rates. But it’s also brimming with something more nefarious: intolerance.
According to a recent news report, the academy is plagued by bullying and harassment, particularly with regard to sex and gender identity. The academy is severely lacking in diversity. Men comprise 83% of the student body – the vast majority of them white. Many of the women, students of color and LGBTQ+ students who enroll at the academy end up dropping out in the face of ongoing toxicity.
How A Military-Like Culture Fuels Intolerance
Although only a small percentage of Cal Maritime’s grads join the military, the institution maintains a military-like culture. One key example is an oppressive dress code and binary grooming requirements, with gendered standards that erect barriers for nonbinary students. The school’s policy requires students who don’t identify with their assigned gender at birth to go through a burdensome process to obtain leadership permission. The process jeopardizes their privacy and doesn’t allow for a full spectrum of gender expression.
Those Seeking Change Have Faced Backfire
LGBTQ+ students have been engaged in talks with leadership to change those standards and make the institution more welcoming and affirming. Their efforts have resulted in transphobic and homophobic comments, including one comment comparing trans students to castrated dogs.
One leader, a woman, sent a school-wide email condemning the hateful vitriol. She was subsequently suspended.
Barriers To Education Continue To Feed Male-Dominated Industries
Sadly, Cal Maritime isn’t the only school where inclusion is not a priority. LGBTQ+ and students of color face barriers at far too many educational institutions across the nation. Those barriers perpetuate the exclusivity of male-dominated industries, where sex and gender discrimination continue to plague workers at all levels.