Subject: Concerns about ROTC
Date: Monday, May 02, 2005 3:42 PM
From: M Foss
To: Scott Stewart
Cc: Sean Wilkes; Eric Chen; Michael Segal; Prof. Allan Silver

Scott and others,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my concerns regarding your desire to return ROTC to Columbia. Just a few thoughts on this matter:

First, having just reviewed the Advocates for ROTC website, I take serious issue with the document entitled "Handout for 15 April 2005 Senate debate on ROTC." While your group seems in other places to meekly claim that it is opposed to DADT, this document defends the military's discrimination against homosexuals by comparing homosexuality to a disability. I am incredulous and deeply troubled that any Columbia student would defend the ban on openly serving gays in any part of the military or, indeed, would suggest that homosexuality be viewed as a disability. To even suggest that homosexuals should be relegated to certain areas of the military on grounds that they cannot share barracks with heterosexual soldiers is offensive to me. I am in the process of forwarding this document to a variety of student leaders, alumni, faculty and administrators and it has strengthened my resolve to do everything I can to see that this proposal does not pass.

Secondly, by allowing ROTC back on campus, Columbia would send a message to the world that discrimination is acceptable. To send such a message is worse than having no voice in the debate at all. The fact that an institution that has led our nation on issues of non-discrimination is now willing to accept an institution that discriminates, will only strengthen DADT in the short term. The fact that Columbia does not currently allow organizations to discriminate is deeply important to me and many others, and allowing ROTC back on to campus would be a powerful blow against all that for which Columbia has come to stand. Please, don't bother telling me about Barnard, since alternative opportunities replicate what is available to Barnard students for males in other areas of the University.

I appreciate your position that the military needs more liberal individuals to bring about change. This is certainly true. However, Columbia is unlikely to graduate large numbers of officers (if the military even establishes a ROTC program at Columbia). Unfortunately, the damage done by the message that Columbia will send by allowing ROTC back on campus will not be undone by the small contribution in officers that Columbia will make. It is unlike that we will see a return to the days of V-12 at Columbia and I doubt that large numbers of students would participate in the program.

Finally, Columbia Advocates for ROTC could certainly do more to send a message to Washington and our nation that the military needs to change its policy. Your statement that the military needs more liberal officers is a weak response to concerns about discrimination and seems designed more to diffuse critics of your goal than really bring about change. In reality, it is not apparent to me that your group has done very much to advocate for change in the military's policy. Have your supporters, such as Admiral James Lowe, who served in the military, written to the Secretary of Defense and other officials in Washington?  Have you written letters to Washington telling that military that it needs to change? If so, you should post such letters on your website which does not seem to take a strong stance on DADT. Since you are the ones who would return ROTC to campus, the onus to advocate for such changes lies on you.

A few suggestions as to what your group might do (or have done) to advocate for change in the military and to reassure those opposed to bringing ROTC back to Columbia:

- Any proposal to bring ROTC back to campus should be contingent upon a change in the military's policy on DADT. If all of the Ivies, along with a group of the nation's other elite colleges, signed a proposal stating that they stand ready to support ROTC when the military changes its policy and sent it to Washington, it would be a powerful message to the world about the need to change. Instead, you hope to send the message that Columbia is ready to cave in on an issue of discrimination.

- Your group has done little to engage and reassure Columbia's alumni, especially its gay alumni, about what you are doing to advocate for change to the military's policies, and show little indication that you are aware of why we might be upset with a proposal to bring back to campus an institution that discriminates. Regardless of how the Senate votes on Friday, some alumni will be alienated from the University.

-  Any attempt to return ROTC to Columbia should be tied to a creation of a program that would provide similar opportunities to students who cannot participate in the program for reasons of sexuality (assuming that the military's policy remains in place), disability or conscience.  Such a program could provide scholarship and training in return for several years of national service in programs such as the Peace Corps, NY Teaching Fellows or AmeriCorps. If there are indeed a significant number of alums supporting your goal, they could work to fund such a program which would do much to diffuse the uneasiness that many of us have with ROTC at Columbia.

Again, thank you for taking the time to engage in dialogue on this issue and to listen to my thoughts.

Best regards,

M Foss
CC'03