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  POSTED ON: Tuesday, September 15, 2020 11:31 AM by

The following message, sent to the Brigade of Midshipmen and all U.S. Naval Academy faculty, staff, and coaches in regard to diversity and inclusion, is attributable to Vice Adm. Sean S. Buck, 63rd Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy.


Over the last several months, as a nation, we have faced extraordinary challenges as we've navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the pandemic's toll has laid bare existing inequalities in our nation including disparities in access to economic opportunity, healthcare, and justice among our minority communities in the United States. Over the past several months, I have listened to voices from around our country, our Alumni community, and our Naval Academy family here on the Yard.  And now, I'd like to share my reflections from the last several months and thoughts as to how we, as a community and an institution, can come out of this stronger than before. In short, diversity, equity, and inclusion are more vital than ever to our mission here at the Naval Academy of developing leaders to serve our Nation.  

At the Naval Academy, our primary mission is to develop leaders of character who are capable of leading Sailors and Marines in the Fleet. Since 1845, we have been able to accomplish this mission year after year, and that dedication to our core purpose is what has made our institution the premier accession source for Navy and Marine Corps Officers. Time and time again, we have graduated men and women who have gone on to serve their country with distinction whether on the battlefield, in the boardroom, or in their communities. 

Like our graduates who have flown night missions over the Persian Gulf, sailed a warship through the South China Sea, or led a platoon of Marines in the streets of Baghdad, our institution must remain ever vigilant, always adapting to the environmental circumstances to ensure that we are performing our mission to the best of our ability. As leadership development is our primary mission, I believe that it is our responsibility to graduate Ensigns and 2nd Lieutenants who are capable of leading with courage, character, and compassion. In our profession of arms, empathy is not just a nice to have; it is a job requirement. If you cannot understand the perspective of those you lead, you will have a hard time finding success in this line of work. 

As we attempt to imbue our midshipmen with these qualities, I believe that our diversity as an institution is essential to the continued success of our Academy’s mission. Creating a Brigade of Midshipmen from all different walks of life is the best way to develop our young men and women to lead the diverse Sailors and Marines of our Fleet. Diversity and inclusivity are also essential to fulfilling our mission of cultivating an officer corps of agile and creative thinkers who are equipped to confront our myriad and complex national security challenges of today and tomorrow. At the Naval Academy, diversity and inclusion are imperative to our institution’s success.

As I reflect on the past couple of months since the tragic death of George Floyd, I have been encouraged by the Academy’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni who understand the importance of diversity to our mission. At the same time, I am not naive in thinking that bigotry and racism do not exist, to some extent, within our Naval Academy family. 

For those of you who think I’m wrong, and believe the Naval Academy is free of racial injustice, I encourage you to take the time to watch a video put together by our Midshipman Diversity Team. In this video, members of our Brigade of Midshipmen courageously shared their own personal stories of encountering racism, discrimination, and bias so that we may listen and learn from them. I urge each and everyone of us to use this video as a starting point for self-reflection and hard conversations. I also challenge every member of our Naval Academy family to live up to the worthy ideals articulated by our midshipmen in this video and work toward a more equitable and inclusive future for all members of our Brigade, our Navy, and our nation.

I believe -- as I hope you do -- that fostering an environment of dignity and respect here at the Naval Academy is essential to our mission of developing future leaders of character for the Navy and Marine Corps. As the Superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure that our community is safe, welcoming, and inclusive for all, but I cannot do this alone. It must be a team effort. Thankfully, we have a cohort of extraordinary leaders within our ranks here on the Yard who have stepped up to the challenge to guide us all towards a better future. 

Over the past few weeks our midshipmen, faculty, staff, and coaches have taken the following steps to start the process of improving our culture and encouraging important dialogue within our Naval Academy family: 

  • Student leaders from the Midshipman Black Studies Club, National Society of Black Engineers, Midshipman Caribbean Heritage Club, and Naval Academy Gospel Choir have established a Midshipman Diversity Team. This team, under the guidance of our Chief Diversity Officer, CAPT Timika Lindsay, and with the support of our other affinity clubs, is developing a midshipman-led, comprehensive plan to identify midshipman-level shortfalls within our Naval Academy family with the goal of proposing a plan to resolve these issues of privilege, bias, and racial injustice.

  • Members of our Naval Academy football team stood up the Academy’s first Racial Equity Council which addresses issues of racial equity within our Naval Academy and local community to include a recent round table discussion with local law enforcement agencies.  

  • The Class of 2024 will be the first group of midshipmen with a requirement to engage each other in these hard conversations as a part of their development as empathetic leaders of character. 

  • Our Faculty Senate recently passed a resolution with overwhelming support to investigate and address any practices at the Naval Academy that perpetuate systemic racism. 

  • With the help of the Naval Academy Minority Association (NAMA), our Alumni Association & Foundation has been hosting virtual round tables with graduates across the country to encourage engagement on issues of racial injustice. I have participated in some of these discussions, and can attest to the eye-opening and self-reflective conversations that have resulted from these conversations.

  • Training sessions about the importance of diversity to our institution are scheduled for all classes of midshipmen throughout the fall semester; all faculty and staff will also be trained on diversity, equity and inclusion. And I’m committed to continue working with all USNA stakeholders to improve in this area.

These are just a few examples of the small steps taken in recent weeks, the first of many that we as a team will continue to take. While these steps alone cannot eliminate racial injustice at the Naval Academy, I assure you that they mark an important new beginning as we look to acknowledge prejudice within our own institution and eradicate it from our service for good.  



Watch the Midshipman Diversity Team video

Category: General Interest