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As U.S. Antarctic base hit by harassment claims, workers are banned from buying alcohol at bars

Researchers and assist workers will nonetheless be capable of purchase a weekly ration of alcohol from the station retailer.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — From Sunday, employees on the fundamental United States base in Antarctica will now not be capable of stroll right into a bar and order a beer, after the federal company that oversees the analysis program determined to cease serving alcohol.

McMurdo Station is not going to be going fully dry, the Nationwide Science Basis confirmed. Researchers and assist workers will nonetheless be capable of purchase a weekly ration of alcohol from the station retailer. However the coverage shift might show important as a result of the bars have been central to social life within the remoted atmosphere.

In a number of the circumstances outlined by the AP, alcohol performed a task. However the NSF advised the AP the adjustments involving alcohol had been associated to morale and welfare on the base, and weren’t geared toward stopping sexual harassment or assault.

Beneath the brand new guidelines taking impact Sunday, employees will be capable of order solely alcohol-free drinks at McMurdo’s two fundamental bars, Southern Publicity and Gallagher’s. They may nonetheless be capable of carry their very own alcohol to drink on the bars. A 3rd venue which additionally served alcohol, the Espresso Home, will develop into fully alcohol-free however will now keep open for employees to go to any time of the day or night time.

The present alcohol ration permits Antarctic employees to purchase as much as the equal of 18 beers every week, or three bottles of wine, or a 750 milliliter (25 ounce) bottle of spirits.

The NSF stated it’s additionally instituting a number of new measures in the course of the present southern hemisphere spring and upcoming summer season which can be geared toward stopping sexual harassment and assault on the base, the place usually round 70% of employees are males. These embrace enhanced coaching, a brand new survey to gather information and monitor tendencies, and visits to the ice from consultants.

Karen Marrongelle, the NSF’s chief working officer, stated it was dedicated to making sure a protected atmosphere wherever science or training was carried out.

“We is not going to relaxation till we’re assured that each member of the Antarctic neighborhood feels protected and supported,” she stated in a press release.

The NSF printed a report in 2022 through which 59% of ladies stated they’d skilled harassment or assault whereas on the ice, and 72% of ladies stated such behaviour was an issue in Antarctica. Final yr, the NSF created an workplace to take care of such complaints, offered a confidential sufferer’s advocate, and established a 24-hour helpline.

The AP investigation discovered a sample of issues at McMurdo. One girl who reported a colleague had groped her was made to work alongside him once more. One other girl who advised her employer she was sexually assaulted was fired two months later. One other girl stated bosses on the base downgraded her allegations from rape to harassment.

After the AP printed its investigation, the NSF despatched a message to U.S. Antarctic Program employees.

“We all know that it may be troublesome to listen to these accounts. It’s for us,” the NSF wrote within the e mail, which was obtained by the AP. “These are usually not experiences we wish anybody to have throughout the USAP (or anyplace else on this planet).”

The e-mail outlined the brand new anti-harassment measures the NSF deliberate to implement and provided assets for assist.

Jennifer Sorensen, who advised the AP she was raped at McMurdo in 2015, stated the NSF had tried unsuccessfully earlier than in charge alcohol for the excessive charges of sexual misconduct on the base.

“They know full nicely that every one the rationing or denial of alcohol gross sales being compelled on us isn’t going to do a rattling factor,” she stated.

If the NSF and lead contractor Leidos had been severe about stopping sexual misconduct, they need to begin believing survivors and guarantee they aren’t retaliated in opposition to, she stated. They need to additionally cease rehiring perpetrators, she added.

“Alcohol can clearly blur the traces of consent, there’s that concern at play, however overwhelmingly, sexual assault has occurred even when neither social gathering has been consuming alcohol, as was the case with me,” Sorensen stated. “So it’s positively not going to get rid of the issue.”

Sorensen stated that if the NSF desires to scale back ingesting, it ought to present various diversions, such because the bowling alley, ceramic studio and greenhouse which was options at McMurdo however have disappeared as a consequence of funds cutbacks.

Britt Barquist, who stated she was groped at McMurdo in 2017, stated in an e mail it was optimistic that the NSF was making an effort to enhance the tradition on the base. However she remained involved that incidents had been nonetheless being swept below the rug when it put a contracting firm’s main goals in danger.

“For instance, my incident came about throughout work hours, at a job web site, no alcohol concerned, and was corroborated and reported via official channels,” Barquist wrote. “I used to be later advised by my firm’s HR that I must work with the perpetrator once more as a result of his job was mission-critical and there was nobody else to fill his position. None of those new insurance policies carried out by the NSF would forestall that from occurring once more.”

The NSF and Leidos have declined to reply questions on Barquist’s case, or others highlighted within the AP’s report.

Beneath one other new initiative to enhance morale, the NSF stated it is going to be increasing web entry via the satellite tv for pc community Starlink, permitting employees to remain higher related to individuals again house. Starlink is run by SpaceX, the corporate based by Elon Musk.

The NSF first foreshadowed impending adjustments to its alcohol insurance policies in a weblog submit early final month, and stated it first advised employees in regards to the new anti-harassment measures in mid-August.

The AP despatched the NSF an in depth record of questions on its investigation in early June and has continued to correspond since, together with asking for any deliberate adjustments to deal with sexual harassment and assault. The NSF by no means listed any deliberate adjustments to alcohol insurance policies.

“As a result of these adjustments are associated to morale and welfare and never sexual assault/harassment prevention, we didn’t point out this program initiative in our earlier response,” the NSF stated in a press release.

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