1.Close the Rift Between Mainstream America and Columbia. That the military is a fundamental component of American society and that Columbia produces our nation's leaders are givens; therefore, the present rift between the military and Columbia alienates Columbia-educated leaders from mainstream America. Furthermore, in the United States, the military ultimately falls under civilian leadership. The lack of a fair military representation in Columbia's education harms the military community that relies on Columbia-educated leaders. End the discrimination of the military on campus. Students cannot learn from a silenced voice that cannot teach. The military has not only been silenced at Columbia, it has been coated with ignorance and negative stereotypes. It is hypocritical for Columbia to claim plurality and diversity when it discriminates against the military - end the hypocrisy and restore truth to our university's ideals.
2. Military as Option. Students explore and experiment in college, yet at Columbia, the military is a closed option. It is in and of itself a fascinating field of study, and it would be a rewarding, challenging career for ambitious, intelligent Columbia students. Closing the option does a disservice to students who would benefit from ROTC's financial aid and are suited for a military career. Right now, Columbia's paucity of ROTC cadets is directly attributable to the lack of information and publicity for ROTC options at Columbia. High school students around the country are unaware of any ROTC option at Columbia. In fact, the military is continually seeking to diversify its officer corps. An ROTC at Columbia could help bring more diversity to the campus.
3. The Non-Discrimination Policy. Columbia affiliates itself with religious groups and a women's college as exceptions to the non-discrimination policy because they bring positive benefits to the university. ROTC deserves the same consideration. Many other schools with the same or similar non-discrimination policies have recognized the value of maintaining ROTC programs, so the precedents have already been set. In terms of the "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy, excluding the military can only worsen the problem. Although it is up to Congress to decide such policies, Columbia-taught officers with superior social consciences can acquire the authority to smooth the integration of new soldiers into the military when the policy changes. Mutual interaction, civil discourse, and Columbia-taught officers are the best ways to address the military's personnel policies. None of those actions can be accomplished while the military is excluded from the Columbia community. In fact, by rejecting the military, Columbia has removed itself from any position to advocate change in the military.
CONCLUSION: The relationship between ROTC and Columbia can and should be one of mutual improvement and understanding. Instead of fostering ignorance, anti-military discrimination and exclusion, Columbia University should seek to produce graduates who will improve all parts of society, including our nation's military, through their participation. By including ROTC, we can improve the Columbia community and set a standard for integrity and true social change.
By Eric Chen, Executive Vice-President, Students United for Victory. 10/22/02.