Coast Guard Academy lacks diversity

Juliana D. Norwood | 9/15/2010, 5 p.m.

This year, when the new freshman class entered, the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., declared that the graduating class of 2014 would be its most diverse in the history of the academy. Yet, of the 289 student sworn in, only nine identified themselves as African American (14 if you include those who are considered mixed-race Blacks).

The Coast Guard has identified the skimpy number of admissions as a serious problem that it has continually faced in recent years, and to remedy that, last year they spent $40,000 buying lists of names of African Americans for possible recruitment.

However, as this year's numbers show, the recruiting effort improved slightly--up from the five cadets who were enrolled last year--but did not make a significant enough increase in enrollment.

Antonio Farias, director of diversity affairs, has assured the academy that the situation is not being taken lightly and through a continued and more diligent effort, he hopes that in the coming years minorities will represent between 25 and 30 percent of each cadet class.

"There is no affirmative action but people think you are there on affirmative action," said Lt. j.g. DeCarol Davis, the engineering major who became the first Black woman to be valedictorian of the academy in 2008. "It (persisted) throughout my tenure at the academy. I was even told I got where I was, because I was the token Black girl."

According to other Black cadets and recruitment officers, the reasons for the low numbers of African American in the academy isn't based on eligibility as much as it is the fact that many Blacks aren't as familiar with the Coast Guard as they are with other agencies. There are also fewer generations and legacies of Black cadets to encourage their children to join.

In addition, aside from having to compete with other more well-known military academies, the Coast Guard must also compete with other universities, who are recruiting these same African Americans with high science and math scores.

Applying to the Coast Guard Academy is similar to the process of seeking admission at a regular college. Acceptance is merit-based, with the standards typical of any other selective institution, but there is an increased emphasis on a strong math and science background. Tuition, room and board are free, but there is a five-year service requirement in the Coast Guard, after graduation.

The United States Coast Guard is responsible for maritime (related to the sea) law enforcement, homeland security, search and rescue of people, and the maintenance of rivers, intracoastal, and will help off-course ships navigate safely to their destination.

For more information on the Unites States Coast Guard, or to apply visit www.uscga.edu.