Subject: Re: Concerns about ROTC
Date: Monday, May 02, 2005 10:08 PM
From: Sean Wilkes
To: M Foss
Cc: Scott Stewart; Eric Chen; Michael Segal; Prof. Allan Silver

Michael,

I want to apologize for not replying to you sooner. I was away for the weekend and so did not have the opportunity to respond right away.

To your first point, I just want to make clear that the 15 April hand out was not an attempt to defend DADT. We presented that along with a discussion on the origins of the DADT law. Many accusations have been thrown at the military and members of the military that it is an organization of bigots and homophobes, and that such people have no place on campus. These statements were not only astounding, but hurtful to many veterans and military family members. What we were attempting to establish with the handout was that the DADT law is not grounded in bigotry or homophobia, but in practical concerns of privacy. It is the opinion of most among the ROTC Advocates that the answer to these concerns, DADT, was a shoddily written, poorly enacted law that violated rights. Additionally, advances in the past decade insofar as privacy infrastructure and regulations are concerned, particularly with regards to women in the services, should further alleviate these concerns.

To your second point, Columbia does not have to send a message to the world that it is accepting discrimination. It certainly has the option of accepting ROTC "under protest," that is voicing under legal contract its disagreement with and opposition to current law. It can also, as other schools have done, establish contingency plans and financial protection for students who may be affected by current law, something it cannot currently do for students who must attend the program at other institutions. It is not the military's purpose or mission to discriminate. Neither is that the purpose of ROTC. Their purpose is to help ensure the viability of our Armed Forces by providing them with well educated leaders and citizen-soldiers. Accepting ROTC would not send a message that "we accept discrimination," but that "we strive develop leaders in all areas of society, including the military."

Both the military as a whole, and ROTC as a part of that whole, are required to follow laws established by congress and executive orders signed by the President. This is not a matter of an employer discriminating on its own accord, but of a public service being required to follow laws put in place by elected leaders. Members of Advocates for ROTC have made attempts to influence Congress to change the law. Dr. Segal has made suggestions to members of Congress. I have spoken to Rep. Cox's staff on the issue twice, as well as members of the civilian leadership at the Pentagon. Last year during our tabling campaign, we provided post cards for students to fill out urging congress to change the law. All in all we collected nearly 120 cards, which Students United for America, an organization in support of ROTC, sent in two packets last April and May. So efforts have been made. But our primary focus has been returning ROTC to campus, which we see as benefiting students who wish to gain the leadership training that ROTC provides and serve as officers in the military. It is my personal view that just as Columbia provides pre-professional opportunities for medical school and law school, it should provide pre-professional opportunities for the military profession as well. And the most viable way to do that is through ROTC - the nation's premier leadership training program.

As for your suggestions of tying the return of ROTC with similar programs of national service, I think this is certainly an idea worth pursuing and something that should be discussed. I would encourage you to make that suggestion to others, and I shall research the possibilities for such a proposal. I know Teach for America is quite active on campus. Perhaps they or the peace corps or other such groups have scholarship or financial assistance programs that could be tied with ROTC's return. If you have any further information on this I would certainly welcome it.

Again thank you for taking the time to discuss this issue with us, and for being willing to hear our perspective as well.

Respectfully yours
Sean Wilkes