Leftist politics infiltrating Merchant Marine Academy, midshipmen warn: ‘Last frontier for woke ideology’

Former and current midshipmen from the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, are warning that “woke” ideology is infecting the school and its poisonous influence is spreading under the leadership of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The prestigious Merchant Marine Academy falls under the purview of the Department of Transportation. According to its website, it educates leaders “who are inspired to serve the national security, marine transportation, and economic needs of the United States.”

In January, the academy was splashed across the headlines following a controversy over a historical painting by Hunter Wood called “Christ on the Water.” It shows Jesus Christ walking on the water toward merchant mariners lost at sea.

After a complaint was filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) which deemed the painting as offensive, the academy placed a white curtain over it, according to Fox News Digital.

MRFF president and founder Michael Weinstein wrote a letter to USMMA Superintendent Vice Adm. Joanna M. Nunan on Jan. 10 arguing that the painting constituted a violation of the First Amendment’s clause forbidding the establishment of religion.

That letter prompted a petition and letters of protest to the admiral from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), and other members of Congress. The academy then announced that the painting would be uncovered but moved to the school’s chapel which, according to multiple sources, is prone to flooding.

Cruz blasted Nunan for the move, claiming he is “deeply concerned” by her “flawed understanding of the First Amendment to our Constitution” and that the time, “place and manner restrictions such as those Mr. Weinstein alleges are safeguards against government over-regulation of private speech.”

The senator remarked that Nunan’s “response to Mr. Weinstein’s email” is “not only unsupported by the law, but is manifestly unnecessary.” The senator also said the response “raises the question of whether you, like Mr. Weinstein, are overtly hostile to religion.”

A number of anonymous sources told Fox News Digital that during a recent question-and-answer session with Nunan about the Jesus painting, a midshipman received a standing ovation from other students after he asked why a painting of Jesus was being removed because it might offend some people, while material promoting LGBTQ was allowed to be displayed despite potentially offending people of faith.

“I’m just kind of paraphrasing, but [Nunan] basically said that you have to glorify the minority,” one source recalled.

The controversy over the painting is just one symptom of woke-ism that is “absolutely” infiltrating the USMMA, according to midshipman John Guettlein, who graduated from the academy in 2022. He spoke with Fox News about the situation.

He claims that the COVID vaccine policies kicked off the trend. Many midshipmen pushed back against the forced vaccinations and the school started cracking down on them in 2021.

“It was basically [get the vaccine] or get kicked out of the academy, and for an entire year, they were picking off one by one,” he recounted.

“A lot of the freshmen, a lot of my friends, just straight-up left because they didn’t want to get into a school that was threatening that. There was just no hope for them,” Guettlein remarked.

Multiple sources told Fox News Digital that midshipmen who would not submit to the jab were prohibited from eating dinner in the school’s Delano Hall and were required to pick up boxed food instead.

“So, there were a lot of times when people were missing meals,” Guettlein recalled. “People had to order out and pay for their own food. As freshmen, you can’t even order out technically, so it would be upperclassmen getting them food.”

A 2021 email that was obtained by Fox News Digital shows that former USMMA Superintendent Vice Adm. Joachim Buono stated that the dining hall policy “encourages unvaccinated midshipmen to become vaccinated.”

Guettlein and another unnamed source accused the academy of ostracizing the unvaccinated from friends, segregating them in formation, and requiring them to wear masks and social distance.

A spokesperson for the US Maritime Administration said in a statement to Fox News Digital that the USMMA is a place where “essential values of mutual respect and dignity are firmly upheld, and we take pride in establishing a campus that reflects excellence, service, and honor.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy put in place precautions to ensure the health and wellbeing of all midshipmen, faculty, and staff, and we disagree with any assertions that any member of our community was mistreated for any reason related to the pandemic,” the spokesperson declared.

“There was a lot less woke stuff around campus, and then it’s just slowly crept in,” claimed a midshipman who has been there since 2021. He pointed out that the main passageway of the school was adorned with a mural promoting LGBTQ ideology.

According to her official USMMA biography, Nunan, who became the school’s first female superintendent in December, boasts that she has helped “spearhead efforts to expand diversity and inclusion in the Coast Guard.”

A senior midshipman blamed both Nunan and Buttigieg for cultural changes at the academy, claiming the transportation secretary “has put a bunch of people in power” with “a warped perspective” on diversifying the school.

“They’re trying to institute cultural change, but on the ground, the midshipman culture has not changed,” he commented.

“It’s unfortunate, the politicization that our school has undergone from the new administration, and it only seems to be getting worse,” the midshipman continued. “And quite frankly, I’m happy that I’m on my way out because you really can’t speak up politically here. You could easily get reprimanded. It is what it is, whereas it used not to be the case.”

“It’s very clear that there are ideological differences between the people in charge here and the people who actually go here, as well as the majority of the professors who are actually conservative themselves,” he stated, adding that he and his peers at times feel “targeted.”

“It’s almost like we’re the last frontier for woke ideology,” he concluded.

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