Women and trans students fear harassment and hate at CSU campus – Explained!

The outrage and frustration had been constructing for years at California State University’s Maritime Academy, an elite coaching floor for students certain for work on the ocean. It reached a peak final 12 months, when pupil cadets publicly confronted the varsity’s president, a retired rear admiral.

Dozens of cadets gathered on the quad that day toprotest what they mentioned was widespread sexual misconduct, racism and hostility towards ladies and transgender and nonbinary students.

One pupil advised President Thomas Cropper {that a} male classmate sexually harassed her. Another accused directors of failing to adequately self-discipline cadets who exchanged messages disparaging trans individuals as “fags” and evaluating them to a castrated canine.

a person turns a circular metal object next to a ship.

Cadet Sophie Scopazzi, a senior majoring in marine transportation at the California State University Maritime Academy, navigates a ship alongside the Golden Bear coaching ship in Morrow Cove.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The reckoning in November 2021 uncovered what students have lengthy mentioned amongst themselves at the varsity, one in every of seven maritime academies within the United States and the one one in every of its type on the West Coast.

Long-standing claims of sexual harassment and misconduct, homophobia, transphobia and racism on campus and throughout coaching cruises have roiled Cal Maritime and triggered an environment of dread for a lot of students, a Times investigation has discovered.

One lady advised The Times she was raped by a male classmate and dropped out earlier this 12 months to keep away from going through her allegedattacker whereas a campus investigation has dragged on for months.

A cadet found their bike tires slashed and the phrase “dike” carved into the fuel tank. Another pupil mentioned she now carries a knife for cover after a cadet tried to coerce her into having intercourse.

Females expressed an understanding that it isn’t a matter of ‘if’ they are going to expertise sexual harassment or assault,” the report concluded, “but ‘when’ and ‘how often.’”

— Campus report

And a college official who despatched out a campus e mail demanding that the varsity do extra to fight hate and racism discovered herself the topic of self-discipline — for unauthorized use of college e mail.

The accusations at the 800-pupil campus on San Francisco Bay are one more disaster for the California State University system, which has been rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct and retaliation, sparking requires reforms and resulting in the resignation of high executives.

Times investigations earlier this 12 months discovered breakdowns and inconsistencies in the way in which that campuses within the nation’s largest public 4-12 months college system deal with sexual misconduct and retaliation claims.

Until now, Cal Maritime, the smallest and most insular of the CSU campuses, has escaped the general public scrutiny that has roiled different colleges within the system. One cause is that the varsity prepares cadets, as they’re known as, for careers within the maritime trade, and some fear formally reporting misconduct will injury their future job prospects, in line with students, college and alumni.

Cropper didn’t reply to requests to be interviewed for this report. Two weeks after Times reporters visited his campus workplace this fall to hunt an interview, he introduced that he would step down in August. He mentioned he made the choice in the summertime.

portrait of a man.

California Maritime Academy President Thomas Cropper says he’ll step down in August.

(Cal Maritime)

Cal Maritime mentioned in statements that high directors have “strongly and repeatedly denounced” misconduct and contend that they’ve taken a wide range of actions to fight the issues. They mentioned the varsity improved the grievance reporting course of by hiring two consultants, elevated campuswide coaching on sexual harassment and tips on how to report misconduct, employed a full-time advocate for victims, hosted campus boards and opened a neighborhood heart that serves as a “welcoming place for cadets to gather and study.”

Other college guarantees have gone unfulfilled.

After the gathering on the quad, Cropper and his senior directors mentioned they’d rent a full-time coordinator and three deputies to supervise misconduct investigations at the academy, which has lengthy been a frontrunner in making ready students for good-paying jobs within the maritime trade.

A 12 months later, the varsity has but to rent the coordinator, citing “failed searches,” and continues to be searching for somebody to fill that position. But it now says it’s going to now not rent the deputies. Instead, officers mentioned in statements that the campus will depend on about half a dozen workers as “liaisons” who will reply to preliminary stories and issues concerning sexual harassment, discrimination and misconduct. They will tackle the work along with their common duties and start coaching in January, the campus mentioned.

The scale of the problem was captured in two stories accomplished this 12 months by exterior consultants in sexual misconduct and pupil rights. One report targeted on campus points and was ordered by the college senate in response to longstanding issues. The different examined coaching cruise tradition and was requested by the administration following reported misconduct.

The coaching cruise report referenced unspecified sexual misconduct on the Training Ship Golden Bear final 12 months and mentioned cadets reported frequent use of the N-phrase and “rampant use” of the phrases “faggot,” “homo” and “dyke,” to check with fellow cadets, together with these within the LGBTQIA+ neighborhood.

The different report discovered that cadets had been reluctant to make formal complaints about misconduct out of fear of retaliation, turning into the topic of gossip by classmates and inflicting injury to their very own careers. Multiple individuals interviewed by the consultants mentioned they lacked religion within the skill of the varsity’s administration to make the mandatory modifications, in line with the report.

“Females expressed an understanding that it is not a matter of ‘if’ they will experience sexual harassment or assault,” the report concluded, “but ‘when’ and ‘how often.’”


Nestled between a tree-lined waterfront and brush-coated hillside, the Maritime campus in Vallejo affords sweeping views of the northern San Francisco Bay. Cadets can examine on benches and garden chairs alongside Morrow Cove overlooking ships that glide previous the Carquinez Bridge, a hulking metal construction that spans a slim tidal strait.

a person raises a blue flag outdoors as many people stand in the background.

Formation on the Quad, the place a cadet is elevating the Cal Maritime flag, is a mainstay of the Corps of Cadets, which all students are required to hitch at California State University’s Maritime Academy in Vallejo.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

a person lies on the ground as standing people around them clap.

Cadets cheer for his or her division classmate as he wins a plank competitors towards different classmates on the campus of California State University‘s Maritime Academy in Vallejo.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

From a boathouse and docks, the varsity operates greater than a dozen vessels, together with the Golden Bear, the place cadets take part in summer time coaching cruises that last as long as 60 days. The campus additionally contains a state-of-the-artwork simulation heart with 360-diploma projection methods that create actual-time workout routines akin to engaged on the bridge of a ship because it navigates throughout the bay or coping with oil spills.

Founded in 1929, Cal Maritime was the primary academy of its type to confess ladies in 1973 and joined the California State University system in 1995.

Cadets can pursue majors provided at different CSU campuses, akin to enterprise administration and mechanical engineering, however many are taking particular coaching to earn U.S. Coast Guard licenses for positions akin to third mate on the bridge of a ship and third assistant engineer within the engine room. Students laud the coaching however say the specialised programs make it tough to switch to different colleges within the system.

Three occasions per week at 7:20 a.m., flags are hoisted up poles resembling the mast of a ship, and cadets usually stand at consideration in khakis for uniform and grooming inspection. Formation on the quad is a mainstay of the Corps of Cadets, which all students are required to hitch.

training ropes hang in the boat house on the campus.

Training ropes cling within the boat home on the campus.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

The corps is led by cadets who function officers and maintain authority over junior students. Corps officers conduct inspections in addition to assign duties akin to standing watch on the deck of the Golden Bear. They report back to a number of commandants, employees positions usually stuffed by army veterans.

Cal Maritime officers level out that they’re essentially the most numerous of all of the nation’s maritime academies. But compared with the CSU total — the place practically 60% of the students are ladies and a little bit greater than 20% are white — the varsity is without doubt one of the least numerous of the 23 campuses. Of the cadets at Cal Maritime, 80% are males and 48% are white.


Allegations of mistreatment of feminine cadets on the campus date again a long time.

One alumna advised The Times {that a} cadet drugged and assaulted her 11 years in the past when she was a pupil. She didn’t file a grievance, saying she didn’t perceive the reporting course of and stayed at the academy solely as a result of her attacker left.

“It’s soul-sucking to know how long these problems have been there,” mentioned the lady, who requested to not be recognized. “This has been an issue for decades.”

One of the skin investigative stories launched this 12 months detailed misconduct on two coaching cruises on the Golden Bear in summer time 2021. The misdeeds “did not happen in a vacuum,” the report mentioned, and cited a “more systemic problem that should be carefully assessed.”

Cadets, alumni and college who spoke to The Times echoed the accusations contained within the report, stating the distinctive challenges posed by working in shut quarters on sea obligation, which is required for these looking for a Coast Guard license.

a mural with the words

Cal Maritime cadets kind tight bonds throughout summer time coaching cruises on the Golden Bear, the place they go away behind colourful murals beneath deck depicting the spirit and camaraderie of the voyage. This mural was created by cadets who lived and skilled collectively on the five hundred-foot ship in 2009.

(Robert J. Lopez / Los Angeles Times)

The 500-foot Golden Bear is the delight of Cal Maritime, and the summer time cruise, throughout which cadets prepare as service provider marines at the path of a captain, entices many to enroll at the varsity. For months at a time, roughly 300 cadets stay and work collectively on the navy and gold ship, studying to navigate open waters alongside routes that embrace the Pacific Coast to Hawaii and by the Panama Canal to Europe.

The expertise creates shut bonds amongst cadets. They go away behind colourful murals beneath deck that encapsulate the camaraderie — ships and seashores; a sunbathing gorilla; a mermaid perched atop an anchor. Older work of scantily clad ladies have been painted over.

But the slim passageways and tight residing areas additionally imply that cadets have little escape from undesirable consideration — or each other. Beds are stacked, and rooms may be accessed by connecting loos. The line for the mess space wraps down the hallway previous the workplace of the commandant, making it tough for a cadet looking for assist to take action unobserved.

Students and alumni mentioned cadets who report misconduct fear that they are going to be ordered to depart at the subsequent port to keep away from continued contact with each other, forcing cadets to attend one other summer time to meet their required sea coaching.

In a press release, the varsity mentioned it launched reforms after the coaching cruise report to make sure a “positive, safe and equitable” expertise, together with bettering protocols for reporting misconduct, designating a liaison to deal with stories and requiring obligatory coaching on sexual assault and harassment.

But data of an investigation aboard a coaching cruise reviewed by The Times present that complaints of wrongdoing continued.

In May, for instance, the Golden Bear captain concluded {that a} preponderance of proof confirmed {that a} cadet had made threatening and disparaging feedback, making a hostile work atmosphere for LGBTQ students, the data mentioned.

“It’s gotten worse,” mentioned chemistry professor Frank Yip, a longtime advocate for cadet security. “The students here feel unheard.”


Deep within the bowels of the Golden Bear, Tassha Tilakamonkul was engaged on a pipe system as a part of her cadet coaching.

Tilakamonkul, 18, who desires of voyaging on oil tankers as a 3rd assistant engineer, mentioned {that a} male cadet was telling her crude jokes and boasting about his sexual exploits on the ship.

She mentioned he adopted her to the deck and down a gangway to a grassy space close to the quad, the place he grabbed her and pulled her shut, telling her that he and his girlfriend had been looking for one other accomplice.

a person stands in a barely lighted space.

Cadet Tassha Tilakamonkul, a sophomore who needs to voyage on oil tankers as a 3rd assistant engineer, accused a male classmate of attempting to coerce her into having intercourse.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

“He had essentially tried to coerce me into having sex,” mentioned Tilakamonkul, noting that she was 17 at the time. The cadet held her shut as she repeatedly tried to interrupt away, solely to be pulled again, she mentioned. The male cadet is now not on campus.

Tilakamonkul, who serves as president of the Gay/Straight Alliance Club, recounted her story on a current afternoon in a laboratory constructing overlooking the bay.

She recalled going through Cropper on the quad, telling him that “I was assaulted at this school.” Cropper, who has been president of the campus for a decade, stood silent and simply nodded, in line with Tilakamonkul.

She mentioned he “never followed back up, never said anything, which is terrible.”

Campus officers mentioned in a press release that they had been “not aware of an instance where a cadet raised an issue but received no follow-up.”

Tilakamonkul mentioned she noticed no use submitting a report with campus officers who examine misconduct beneath federal Title IX regulation, which prohibits discrimination and harassment based mostly on intercourse, race or gender.

two people in a workshop.

A Cal Maritime cadet will get instruction from cadet Tassha Tilakamonkul, proper, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. They are lighting a torch within the welding store on the campus of California State University’s Maritime Academy.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Classmates who’ve handled Title IX officers recounted being requested about their clothes and whether or not they had been ingesting alcohol, all of which made them really feel like they weren’t believed, in line with Tilakamonkul.

She mentioned cadets use knives for work on the coaching vessels however added that she carries one primarily for cover from different cadets, saying “it’s kind of become part of my body.”

She now affords this recommendation to different ladies on campus: “Always have a knife with you.”


Months after one younger lady mentionedshe was raped by a classmate, she fled from Cal Maritime. On campus together with her allegedattacker, she was consumed by nervousness. She believed her solely choice was to depart the college.

She described being in school just a few ft from her alleged attacker as “the most gut-wrenching thing in the world.”

She mentioned it took time to course of what had occurred to her final 12 months: She allegeda person she as soon as trusted and thought-about a good friend pushed her onto a mattress, pinned her by the neck and assaulted her whereas they had been off campus.

The lady, who spoke on the situation that she not be recognized, mentioned she filed a grievance with Cal Maritime officers early this 12 months alleging she was raped by a cadet. The investigation has not concluded. She declined to call her alleged attacker.

She beforehand shared her story with trusted cadets and college, a number of of whom spoke with Times reporters. The Times doesn’t usually determine victims of sexual assault.

a small poster on a cabinet in a workshop.

A Rosie the Riveter poster provides security ideas in a machine store on the campus of the Maritime Academy.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The campus declined to debate particular circumstances, however mentioned it affords students “supportive measures” akin to counseling, ordering cadets to not contact each other and shifting students to completely different courses “when feasible.”

The lady mentioned she was in the identical class as her alleged assailant however was unable to vary her schedule. She felt powerless and started hyperventilating between courses.

She now spends her time scrubbing the decks of tugboats and working at a bar close to her house. She nonetheless desires of a profession within the seafaring trade however has no plans to return to Cal Maritime.


Last fall, after a U.S. Merchant Marine Academy pupil accused an engineer of rape, requires reform reverberated throughout the male-dominated occupation and onto the campus of Cal Maritime.

a person stands next to a bay.

Cadet Huck Parra, who desires of turning into a 3rd mate on a analysis ship, is a junior at the Maritime Academy in Vallejo. The tires on Parra’s bike had been slashed final 12 months and “dike” was carved into the fuel tank.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Cadet Sophie Scopazzi, 25, who needs to be a 3rd mate on a deep-sea ship, pressed the varsity to remove gender-based mostly insurance policies concerning hair size, earring-put on and nail polish. Nonbinary and transgender cadets like Scopazzi had been required to out themselves to obtain permission to vary their look, which they contend is an invasion of privateness.

The campus mentioned that earlier this 12 months it up to date its uniform and grooming insurance policies to be extra gender-impartial. Its revised uniform insurance policies don’t state that cadets are required to say whether or not they’re nonbinary or transgender.

Scopazzi’s requires change prompted a disturbing backlash from some cadets, together with corps leaders who disparaged LGBTQ classmates in feedback despatched to 1 one other through textual content and e mail.

In a gaggle textual content chat in November 2021, cadet leaders mocked LGBTQ classmates, saying they wanted to “harden the f— up” and calling them “fags.” Others mentioned that the U.S. ought to “send tranny soldiers back to Afghanistan” and disparaged individuals who had surgical procedures to “snip” their genitals.

“I can’t go anywhere else … This is what I want to do in life.”

— Cadet Sophie Scopazzi

The messages reviewed by The Times didn’t determine the excessive-rating cadets concerned. But in an e mail to classmates saying his resignation, the coed who commanded the corps admitted he took half within the alternate, saying his conduct “sent the wrong signal in my role as a leader and broke your trust.”

In a separate letter shared amongst cadets across the similar time, one pupil mentioned it was “sad that people these days are questioning themselves about who and what they are. As an example, a male castrated dog does not suddenly become a female dog because his reproductive organs were removed.”

The cadet additionally questioned why somebody would attend Cal Maritime in the event that they didn’t assist the insurance policies.

“I can’t go anywhere else … This is what I want to do in life,” mentioned Scopazzi, who has created an internet site for the Cal Maritime neighborhood to talk out about their experiences. It contains nameless posts from individuals who determine themselves as cadets and alumni and talk about being raped and sexually assaulted whereas attending the academy.

Within hours of the campus studying of the group texts, the pinnacle commandant messaged the campus neighborhood denouncing the actions as “misconduct” and suspended the cadet leaders from their positions, in line with an e mail reviewed by The Times. The campus launched a pupil conduct investigation, officers mentioned in a press release.

cadet sophie scopazzi, a senior majoring in marine transportation at the maritime academy, in the boat house

Cadet Sophie Scopazzi, a senior majoring in marine transportation at the Maritime Academy, within the boat home on the campus of The California State University Maritime Academy.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

In a campus message, Cropper known as the language “offensive, spiteful and highly disappointing” however he additionally mentioned it was “Constitutionally protected free speech which I will defend for everyone at our academy.”

In interviews with Times reporters, cadets, employees and college questioned why Cropper didn’t declare zero tolerance for hate speech.

Scopazzi mentioned the textual content messages didn’t identify anybody however had been clearly directed at her and the 2 different trans cadets who had come out at the academy. She mentioned she now not felt protected and moved off-campus. She filed a Title IX report over the messages and was advised by the Maritime Title IX officer that the chat, “though hateful,” didn’t immediately identify her and was protected 1st Amendment speech.

After her case was dismissed this 12 months, she appealed to the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach, which upheld the campus choice.

“We’ve got all these people who should be doing a better job here,” Scopazzi mentioned of high leaders. “They’re the ones who are supposed to be taking care of us.”


Around the identical time that cadets confronted Cropper on the quad final 12 months, the ladies’s basketball group met with him after gamers had been focused with nameless racist and homophobic social media posts. One participant advised the president that she had been sexually assaulted and feared going through her assailant on campus, in line with two ladies who attended the assembly.

The ladies, who requested to not be named for fear of retaliation, recalled Cropper saying that it could be cowardly for the participant to not go to courses.

“We felt gaslit,” one in every of them mentioned. “It sucks that this is the expectation we have for our school, like nothing is ever going to get resolved.”

In a press release, the campus mentioned that Cropper advised the group that the “people behind these messages were exhibiting abhorrent behavior and were, indeed, behaving cowardly.”

Cadet Huck Parra recounted telling Cropper at the quad that if he didn’t take extra aggressive motion towards hate speech, the scenario “was going to escalate and it was going to get worse.”

Several weeks later, Parra’s bike tires had been slashed and “dike” was carved within the customized wrap of the fuel tank.

“Would love to put a lynch around your neck.”

— A Black cadet obtained nameless textual content messages crammed with racist, sexist feedback

Campus police obtained a dialog surreptitiously recorded by a cadet on his cellphone inside a dorm room, the place a freshman recognized by police as a “lead suspect” was heard saying he was chargeable forthe crime, in line with police data reviewed by The Times.

The suspect mentioned, “we slashed her tires,” and known as Parra a “f— dyke” who “looks like a dude,” in line with excerpts of the recording included in police data.

cadet huck parra studies marine transportation at california state university maritime academy.

Cadet Huck Parra research marine transportation at California State University Maritime Academy.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Two students advised police they heard the freshman say he vandalized the bike, the data present. He lived within the dorm the place Parra was a residence corridor officer, and his key card confirmed that he had exited a doorway of the constructing, simply steps from the bike, across the similar time the crime occurred, in line with the data.

The case was referred to the Solano County district legal professional’s workplace, which mentioned it declined to file expenses as a result of it couldn’t show the allegation “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

A Title IX investigation, a separate administrative course of carried out by Cal Maritime, concluded in July {that a} preponderance of the proof confirmed that the freshman harassed Parra in violation of CSU coverage, case data present.

Cal Maritime officers declined to say whether or not the cadet was disciplined and whether or not he’s nonetheless on campus, citing pupil privateness. But Parra was advised that the coed is now not enrolled. He couldn’t be reached for remark. Officials additionally mentioned that Cropper and his management group strongly denounced the misconduct.

The campus mentioned it paid $500 to Parra to cowl restore prices, however the pupil mentioned the cash coated solely a fraction of the injury prices and that the bike has not been used since.

Parra, 23, a junior who needs to be a 3rd mate on a analysis ship, continues to course of the trauma.

“I’m the one that had to pay the price.”


In November 2021, a cadet who’s Black obtained nameless textual content messages crammed with racist, sexist feedback that had been additionally laced with threats of bodily and sexual violence.

“Would love to put a lynch around your neck,” one message mentioned.

The lady requested who was sending the message. The response: “Massa … Know your place n—.”

Carissa Lombardo, a sergeant within the New York National Guard, was one in every of a number of commandants who oversaw Cal Maritime’s Corp of Cadets at the time.

In a cellphone interview from East Africa, the place Lombardo is on army obligation and assigned to an air transport operation, she recalled being advised repeatedly by supervisors that feminine cadets wanted to be extra aggressive in reporting misconduct, which she says signaled a failure to grasp the issues and distrust that individuals have within the system.

After studying concerning the racist and sexist messages, she mentioned she pushed for high directors to schedule campus conversations to “discuss why this is happening” and “hold people accountable.”

“This was like the breaking point of my morals and values and where I stand as a human being and as a female — and a female in a male-dominated organization,” Lombardo mentioned.

When officers didn’t maintain the conversations, Lombardo mentioned, she despatched an e mail that known as out senior directors, cadets and employees.

“Where are you in putting a stop to ALL hate,” she mentioned in her message. “If you are a bystander to this behavior, you are just as guilty as the cadets who are posting.”

a vessel with the words

The Little Bear, a coaching vessel at the Maritime Academy, glides throughout Morrow Cove.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The e mail included a censored model of the message despatched to the lady, whom Lombardo mentioned gave permission to publish the rant.

The day after Lombardo despatched her message, inside campus data reviewed by The Times present, she was suspended for 15 days, ordered to not set foot on campus and knowledgeable that she was beneath investigation.

Lombardo was accused of utilizing the campus e mail system in an “unauthorized manner,” in line with a memo from Michael Martin, an affiliate vp who oversees variety and inclusion on campus.

Lombardo, who was in National Guard coaching at the time, mentioned she was locked out of her e mail and discovered on Nov. 19 through a textual content message from her supervisor that she had been suspended.

The motion was condemned by students, who mentioned it strengthened their distrust of senior directors, and by college senate leaders who wrote a letter calling it retaliation that might create a “profound chilling effect on the discourse that must occur for this university to move forward.”

The campus disputed that Lombardo’s suspension was retaliation, however declined to debate the investigation, saying it was a personnel matter. Campus police investigated and realized that the messages had been despatched from a “burner” cellphone that might not be traced, officers mentioned in a press release.

Lombardo mentioned she obtained a whole bunch of supportive messages from cadets, dad and mom, college and employees.

“I feel I was suspended for not actually doing something wrong, but [for] calling the school out for covering up a situation,” she mentioned.

She mentioned she maintains common contact with cadets who proceed to explain a poisonous campus tradition. For actual reforms to happen, in line with Lombardo, change must “start from the top.”

“When the top doesn’t hold people accountable to these [higher] standards,” she mentioned, “then the change is not going to happen.”

Disclaimer: This story was routinely generated by a pc program and was not created or edited by Journalpur Staff. Publisher: Journalpur.com

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