Depressing seasickness and galley slaves

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It is a new year and a new term. For many marine officer students this means it is time to go out and work on the deck, sometimes for the very first time. I have been ashore for some years now, and I look back on my days as a seafarer through rose-tinted glasses. Those years at sea really enriched my life. Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. Even though the majority of students come back to the academy with only positive experiences, every year there are some who have been affected by the most remarkable events. Our students have had their trousers pulled down, literally and figuratively speaking, have worked as babysitters with senior officers’ children, had unwelcome nocturnal visits in their cabins and have been told that their working grades can be raised in exchange for different kinds of services. Some of these events have been direct breaches of the work environment law, others are in the grey area of what is legal, but have definitely violated decency and morality.
”What if the boss is nasty to everyone?”
When we were on a course for future marine engineers and were going through the Work Environment Authority rules on discrimination, someone asked the question, ”But if the boss is nasty to everyone, does the law still apply? Then it’s not a question of discriminating treatment, is it?” Good question. In a student essay on the same course, I read this: ”Being teased and called a galley slave is something you have to count on”. Why is this? And what sort of signal does it send? Take care of our students as you would like to be treated. Give them a good introduction and good teaching. Promote diversity, not simplicity.

Cecilia Österman/

Linnaeus University, Kalmar

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