CFCC Marine Technology program at stake after changes to employment status

Wilmington, NC (WWAY)– Policy changes made by Cape Fear Community College to its Marine Technology program is prompting the college’s on-staff captains to resign and students are taking action.

Students say those captains play a critical role in the program making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to get proper training. 

Megan McDeavitt is a current marine technology student and is upset about the changes.

“By the time school started our cruises were canceled essentially. We started asking questions about why, we made flyers bringing attention to the issue and the school took them down, and they gave us no answers as to why these changes happened. they were very sudden and with no real reason,” McDeavitt said.

The college made the decision to change the employment status of the marine tech staff from “exempt” to “non-exempt”.  The captains spend extended time at sea, which creates an expensive, but necessary situation. The change in status means they wouldn’t be compensated for the extended hours they work. These cruises last anywhere from four to 10 days, nearly 60 miles offshore. Without experienced captains, students are afraid they would have to rely on people with little or no real experience. 

Student Maggie Oxendine, who is also the Marine Tech Club President, emphasizes that safety is a priority when going out on a cruise. 

“We want to feel safe when we’re out there. The crew that we have right now is more than qualified to operate that vessel and I feel safe with them,” Oxendine said. “I felt 100% safe with them this summer, but to hire a new crew a week or two before cruises start, no. I don’t want to walk out on that boat. I don’t want to.”  

The program at CFCC is one of its kind on the east coast, and provides students with the practical skills needed for success.  

RJ Jones, a graduate of the program, says without the skills learned from the program, he would never be where he is now.  

“I mean it’s something that’s near and dear to a lot of us. It has set me off on the path that I’m on in my life now, and without it I don’t know where I’d be. I wouldn’t trade where I am now for anything. I know there’s a lot of people who hear about that, talk about it, hear stories, and you know you’re taking away a fundamental part of the program,” Jones said.   

WWAY reached out to Cape Fear Community College for more details about the change to the program. The campus issued the following statement.

“Cape Fear Community College is proud of our Marine Technology program and its unique ability to prepare students for employment at sea. Recently, personnel changes have occurred that may result in adjusted training plans. However, the College is making every effort to move forward so that our marine tech students can receive this one-of-a-kind training. The College has absolutely no intention of shutting down the Marine Technology program. It is an important program for our area, and the training it provides our students is unrivaled on the east coast. It should be noted, however, that Marine Technology is a very expensive program for the college to operate. In order to make the program viable for years to come, some adjustments must be made. The R/V Cape Hatteras is aging, and a newer vessel will need to be considered soon. In order to secure a newer vessel, the college will be researching additional funding opportunities. The purchase of a newer vessel would help reduce fuel, repair, and related operating expenses.”

Students of the Marine Technology program have organized a protest to take place on the Riverwalk Wednesday September 7th at noon, as they stand behind and support their faculty and staff.  

Categories: Local, New Hanover, What’s Happening