Although he spent the last two years serving as president of Nichols College, a prestigious private college in Massachusetts, Glenn Sulmasy is also a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain who taught at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USGCA). He has been hailed for his leadership, skills as a law studies professor, work as head of the Humanities Department at the USGCA, and time spent as provost and chief academic officer at Bryant University in Rhode Island.
Recently, however, revelations of past alleged sexual misconduct by Sulmasy while at the USGCA have been made public, forcing him to leave Nichols College. To make matters worse, Sulmasy’s situation also sheds light on the mishandling of sexual misconduct, dating back years, within the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
CNN recently reported that USCGA officials had evidence that at the Academy, Sulmasy sent hundreds of sexually suggestive texts to a student and continuously attempted to engage “in sexual banter’’ dating back at least seven years. And, in a 2016 Coast Guard performance evaluation, other allegations against Sulmasy were documented, including details that he used his government email system to engage in “flirtatious” and “inappropriate” communications with another former cadet in 2013 and had “sexually graphic and inappropriate” photos” on his email system.
According to CNN, attorneys for the Coast Guard recommended that Sulmasy be prosecuted in a military court-martial for conduct unbecoming an officer and willful dereliction of duty. The recommendations came even though the officer had retired from service months earlier.
The military court proceedings never happened.
For its report, CNN interviewed alleged victims of Sulmasy, including Melissa McCafferty, a 2011 academy graduate. She told CNN that Sulmasy verbally harassed her and texted her that he would only write her a recommendation letter for law school if she sent him photographs of herself.
“In light of these reports and facts uncovered to date during our ongoing investigation, and their impact on President Sulmasy’s ability to lead Nichols College, the Board strongly believes the institution’s best interest is to pursue new leadership,” the Nichols College Board of Trustees said in a statement the afternoon he stepped down.
Operation Fouled Anchor
Although his departure from the esteemed school was daunting, Sulmasy’s conduct is far from being the only issue surrounding the U.S. Coast Guard regarding alleged sexual abuse against subordinates.
The disclosures by CNN concerning Sulmasy followed another CNN report on a secret investigation within the Coast Guard Academy, dubbed Operation Fouled Anchor. The investigation was an inside-driven look into alleged rapes and sexual assaults at the Coast Guard Academy that stretched back decades.
While former leaders at the academy stressed they planned to share the information with Congress regarding Operation Fouled Anchor, it was kept secret until CNN’s report, which came out in June. Because of the recent revelations, a U.S. Senate subcommittee inquiry was launched, and many are watching for alleged abusers to be held accountable for their past actions.
CNN reported that Operation Fouled Anchor was kept confidential by officials, despite the serious allegations, and in some cases dated back to the 1980s. The investigators also determined that many reported sexual abuse incidents were not looked into at all, and others that got school personnel’s attention were handled as “administrative violations. Further, some of the accused went on to serve in the U.S. military while at the same time, accusers left the academy and gave up potential service opportunities.
When CNN studied the individual cases and conducted interviews with alleged victims, they found details including suicide attempts, battles with depression and anxiety, records of emergency room visits, and confessions of perplexed, frustrated individuals like Kerry Karwan, a Coast Guard veteran.
In a 2018 letter Karwan sent to both Coast Guard officials and then-President Donald Trump, she wrote: “Whose fault is it that he was still in the (Coast Guard) 20 (years) later? If I’m sounding frustrated it is because I am.” Karwan said, “I upheld the Coast Guard Corps Values, and an individual that assaulted me and other women retired honorably with higher benefits than I did…We are a service that saves people for a living. I’d like to think our service members are people worth saving.”
Reaction to U.S. Coast Guard Sexual Abuse
In June, two U.S. senators, Maria Cantwell of Washington, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, sent a letter to the Coast Guard, saying the committee was concerned about the report and the Coast Guard’s failure to disclose its investigation.
“We write to express our grave concern regarding the reports of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment at the United States Coast Guard Academy between 1988 and 2006 and the Coast Guard’s lack of action to properly and timely investigate, prosecute, and report these criminal acts,” wrote the senators in their letter. “We are also concerned about the Coast Guard’s failure to disclose its investigation that began in 2014 and ended in 2020, the withholding of which some have described as intentional.”
The senators are requesting answers and documentation related to the reports of crimes, subsequent investigations, and Coast Guard leadership decisions related to what was and what was not investigated by the Coast Guard when the incidents occurred and during the “operation.”
Other Cases of Military Sexual Abuse
In its most recent Sexual Assault Prevention and Response report, the Department of Defense estimated that over 8% of female and 1.5% of male service members experienced “unwanted sexual contact” in 2021. Recently, the Army made headlines due to officials charging an Army doctor with abusive sexual contact and indecent viewing.
So far, 23 alleged victims have come forward, claiming the Army doctor, Maj. Michael Stockin sexually assaulted them. The charges came following a year-long investigation into accusations against Stockin. The alleged actions of the 10-year service member violate military law, and an upcoming trial will determine whether he’s found guilty of sexual assault.
The victims in the Stockin case and those who spoke up after the abuse they endured through the Coast Guard Academy are courageous individuals. Coming forward to report sexual abuse or filing a sex abuse lawsuit is difficult and can be emotionally trying. Survivors of sexual abuse can contact an attorney to assist in holding abusers and organizations that covered up the abuse accountable while keeping future or potential victims from harm. They can also help victims fight for deserved compensation. The attorneys at Herman Herman Katz advocate on behalf of all sexual abuse victims. For more information or a free, confidential case review, contact us online, via chat, or call 844-943-7626.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.