ROTC Hearing, Part 2: “How Can We Not Invite Them Back?”

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Last night, Conor Skelding stopped by the second of three hearings organized by USenate’s Task Force on Military Engagement.  These hearings mark the preliminary stage of the USenate investigation into ROTC’s potential return. Students of CC, BC, GS, SEAS, and SIPA will soon receive a poll by email.

Good turnout at at last night’s hearing! Unlike the underpopulated first hearing, last night’s attendees filled the center section of Havemeyer 309, the wings, and most of the back. Supporters of ROTC’s return appeared to make up a slight majority. Even the Post sent a photographer to capture all the action.

The hearing opened with a warning/reminder from student co-chair Ron Mazor, to debate difficult topics “politely,” perhaps recalling the cattiness of some of last week’s participants. The audience generally respected his wishes until the end of the evening, when opposition speakers heckled and shouted at a GS veteran revealing his take on the realities of Afghanistan and combat.

In her opening remarks, Dean Moody-Adams seemingly declared her support for ROTC’s return. “Should the question not be, ‘How can we have ROTC on campus?’ but, ‘How can we not invite them back?” MiMoo asked. Columbia, she believes, can produce “superior citizen-soldiers” through the Core. She shared thoughts on just war theory and her experiences at Cornell, where she oversaw all three branches of the ROTC. A summary of the evening’s arguments follows.

General arguments in favor included:

  • The military can diversify and add to the collective experience at Columbia.
  • Columbians should be allowed to serve their nation.
  • There is a civilian-military divide which must be mended.
  • By exposing ROTC cadets to LGBTQ students, the military can be changed from the inside-out.
  • The military is a policy-tool of the civilian government, not a policy maker.
  • By bringing the ROTC to Columbia, the military can be socioeconomically diversified.

Arguments against were more limited than last time:

  • Transgender people are still discriminated against and barred from military, this would directly oppose Columbia’s nondiscrimination statement.  This was the primary argument used throughout the night.
  • Columbia will no longer be a safe haven for trans students should the discriminating military arrive.
  • There is no evidence for changing the military from the inside working–that earns soldiers courts martial.
  • The military recruits and preys upon low-income students.

The audio recording of the hearing can be downloaded here. The final town hall is scheduled for Wednesday, February 23rd, in 417 IAB (Altschul Auditorium), 8-10 PM.

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  1. Stephen  

    It will be interesting to see the outcome of the poll. I did an unscientific (read: bleary-eyed from no sleep, so I may have miscounted) tally of the emails that the task force has released and found a vastly different picture than has been seen at the town halls: the emails indicate overwhelming support for the return of ROTC. I counted 36 emails in favor of ROTC's return, 5 opposed to the return, and a handful of others that expressed no opinion or were ambivalent.

    If my guesses are correct, I believe that the strong opposition to ROTC we have seen at the town halls has been mostly the result of one or two student organizations that has mobilized heavily. The results of the poll, then, may well show blowout support for lifting the ban. Of course, I could be wrong - only time will tell!

    Also, not incidentally, just because it may be the most popular opinion doesn't mean it's right. I happen to support bringing ROTC back but I wouldn't fall back on assuming my position is the correct one just because a bunch of emails or a poll supported it.

    • Anonymous  

      it is also not wise to assume that these townhall meetings are a representative sample of the student population. the reason the anti-ROTC crowd seems so large at these meetings is because their members are from a couple small groups on campus. they are small but they are very vociferous about their beliefs.

      i am refreshed by the fact that our task force understands they are a fringe element and is assessing the median student's opinion.

      • Anonymous  

        It doesn't matter how small these groups are or what the "median" of the student body's opinion is. Nothing at all has changed since 2005 when PrezBo said he would not allow ROTC to be on Columbia's campus because of our non-discrimination policies.

        Trans-students are valuable and important members of our community here at Columbia. They might be a small "fringe" group, as you claim, but this university has a commitment to them-the same commitment it makes to protect all of its students.

        Trying to marginalize them as any sort of radical fringe group is disgusting and goes against everything Columbia claims to stand for.

        • Pro-ROTC  

          As a lesbian student, I absolutely agree that the comfort, safety and security of trans students on this campus is vital to Columbia's well-being. However, demonizing and dehumanizing soldiers, cadets, and vets (of which there are about 300-400 at Columbia, by the way), is just as unhealthy.

          All of the vets I've spoken to on campus are eager to learn about the discrimination that queers in the military and in civilian life. They have been curious and respectful of my opinions. They also know very little about these issues, because up until DADT was repealed they were not been able to speak freely about them.

          Locking the campus gates will not help change the military or lessen discrimination. I strongly urge anyone who disagrees to spend a few minutes with a vet and realize that they are just smart, fun, and yes, human, as any civilian.

  2. CC 2012  

    I was there. It was moving and a bit jarring to hear the vet whose been shot 9 times and spent 2 years in Walter Reed speak ("there are evil men out there who hate you and want to kill you"). I am deeply ashamed to hear the opposition heckle and call him a racist.

    I wonder if the students who showed up actually think that by sitting down and having a reasonable conversation on social constructs and paternalistic race-theory at the Hungarian Pastry Shop with a member of al Qaeda will suddenly make things all better.

    • Anonymous  

      though of course, given that the US govt is actually responsible for the creation of al-qaeda, brings up the question why we don't ban politicians on campus? military only executes the policies of the govt

    • Anonymous  

      His words were moving, true. In so much as my stomach turned from the xenophobia, bigotry and ignorance of what he said.

      There are bad people in this world and the US Military does good in protecting us from some of them. But his remarks were fearmongering and racist.

      • Stephen

        I think it's important for us to note that "racist" is a word that has meaning. It's not just a catch-all term for "bad." I don't recall his precise words, but if I am correct they were along the lines of "Right now there are evil people plotting to kill you." I believe that this is a simplistic description of the situation we face. I believe that, even though it is plainly true that there are people out there plotting to kill Americans, reasonable people could nonetheless disagree with this statement on the grounds that it oversimplifies things and appeals to our fears rather than to reason. I share those concerns. But nothing about his statement was racist - that is, he didn't say "there are evil brown people/muslims/arabs/Saudis/etc plotting to kill you."

        It demeans the real evil of racism when we apply the descriptor to any statement we don't like.

    • jesus

      he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.

  3. Stephen  

    I would like to add my voice to those who were deeply, deeply disturbed and ashamed to hear that wounded vet called a racist. There is nothing racist about acknowledging the fact that America has enemies. And whether or not you agree with ROTC being brought back to campus, all Columbia students ought to be above that type of hateful and wedge-driving rhetoric.

    • Anonymous

      There's no doubt the US has enemies. But I think it's time well spent to consider exactly who the enemies are and why they are such. Perhaps some of them are "avoidable" enemies? People who wouldn't be enemies if we hadn't done and continue to do certain things to them?

      This isn't meant to support anything about the racist yells.

  4. Ugh  

    "“Superior citizen-soldiers” through the Core."-- what does that even mean!

  5. here's an argument no-one wants to hear  

    We have no moral high ground. Since when are we concerned at all about the morality or fairness of the institutions we allow a presence here on campus?

    We allow the same ibanks that gamed the system, lied their asses off, and fucked us all over for another dollar. We allow faith services and cultural groups for religions that vilify homosexuals, feminism, and basic human rights. We allow students to go to law school when we know that there are no more law jobs, and the unfulfilling ones that still exist would be called indentured servitude in another, more just world. We allow students to go into politics, telling them that public service is worth a damn when we know that all they’re going to be doing is helping some greedy, dumb, corrupt, and cowardly son of a bitch maintain power, or another greedy, dumb, corrupt, and cowardly son of a bitch take his spot. We allow students to go to grad school, and ensconce themselves in the insular world of academia, where they can spend all day debating over the details of unimportant minutia, smug in their position of tenured irrelevancy. We allow TFA where students can play teacher in shit neighborhoods for two years, pretending that an Ivy League degree and a few weeks in teacher summer camp is enough to do their job, and then afterwards they can just move on to the same ibanks, consulting firms, law schools, whatever they would’ve gone to otherwise. We allow PR firms that help cover the asses of corporate sociopaths and philandering politicians in order to prevent the off-chance that the world might catch a glimpse of just what terrible human beings they are. We even allow the fucking CIA – if the military is the blunt, dumb instrument of the imperialist machine, then the CIA is the sleek sharp stiletto.

    So who gives a fuck if the military is discriminatory? Who cares if it’s imperialistic? Who cares if it’s unjust? Since when do we give a fuck about justice before, during, or after college?

    • that was an argument i wanted to hear  

      thank you.

    • Stephen  

      Please come to the next town hall meeting and say this verbatim.

    • Excellent point  

      I completely agree with you.

      Moreover, I think the truth is that these organizations who oppose the military on the grounds of discrimination are actually discriminatory. They are prejudiced against the military for some unsubstantiated, ungrounded, ridiculous reason, but of course, they can't use this as their reason, so they take cover behind DADT (which everyone should understand was legislation passed by the Clinton administration, yet rather than direct your frustration the government--you direct it at the military, peculiar, no?) until it falls. Then, they take cover behind the fact that the military discriminates against transgender people. If the military were to accept transgender people into the ranks, they would find some other reason to oppose the military.

      Why have I not seen flyers that say "Hi, my name is Lucha and I don't support institutions of higher education because they turn a blind eye to sexual assault and rape" but instead I see posters of the likes against the military. It's a double standard.

      And you're right, certain religious groups actively discriminate and exclude homosexuals and actively subjugate women. Yet there are protected groups on campus. Keep in mind, too, that military members are protected against discrimination as a group.

      And seriously. If these groups really want to stick to their (misplaced) convictions, we should boycott Broadway/Hogan residence hall. It has no reasonable entrance for students with disabilities and it has explicitly labeled men and women bathrooms on each floor. And this was built in 2000, it's not like it's some antique building leftover from the early 20th, it's a modern building.

      All of these groups need to stop hiding behind some pseudo-cause and come to the realization that they are the bigots and the hypocrites.

      • Anonymous

        "If these groups really want to stick to their (misplaced) convictions, we should boycott Broadway/Hogan residence hall. It has no reasonable entrance for students with disabilities..."

        Broadway/Hogan may not be "reasonable", but when compared to the rest of the campus, it's a red carpet.

        • I don't  

          actually think that we should boycott Broadway/Hogan. I'm just making a point about how these groups have arguments that are logically inconsistent. They are tolerant and accepting of organizations that discriminate yet refuse to accept the military and in turn discriminate against the military. I guess the point is, Lucha&Company doesn't call Columbia out because it builds a dorm that is less than ideally accessible for physically disabled people and has gender specific bathrooms, but they are more than willing to be a roadblock for something that will benefit the university, the military and potentially the US and the rest of the world (I'm talking about inviting ROTC back) because the military 'discriminates' against transgender people.

          • Anonymous  

            Are you people kidding? Transgendered people are so grossly unfit for military service as well as just everyday life. Trans people shouldn't be complaining about their inability to fit into an organization in which they clearly dont belong.

      • If I might play Devil's Advocate  

        The rhetoric behind this argument is flawed. If I opposed bringing ROTC back, I might point out that the main idea here seems to be "Columbia does a bunch of other bad things, so we might as well do one more." The problem with condemning people or groups who are inconsistent solely based on their inconsistency is that you are discounting their just ideas and actions solely on the premise that they also support unjust ideas/actions. A thoughtful analysis discriminates between just and unjust policies, commending a group's good ideas and condemning it's bad ones. All that you're arguing here is that Columbia University is hypocritical. You are not in any way proving that the ban on ROTC is just.

        • That last word  

          should've been "unjust". Excuse me.

        • You misunderstand

          The point of it is not that Columbia does bad things so we should do one more too. I am saying that every organization has it's flaws--and to be honest, I am not sure if we can ever reach perfection. But rather than choosing to continue a ban on an organization that has flaws and rather than choosing to refuse to engage with said organization, why not try to obtain some influence and make the organization better?

          And it just pisses me off that these groups act self-righteous and hold onto inconsistent convictions. If these issues bother them so much that they want to plaster every single bulletin board on campus with their anti-military propaganda, then they ought to be concerned with issues of sexual assault, discrimination and the lot of it all the time, with every organization. Because at the end of the day, a continued ban of ROTC on campus is not going to do a damn thing about sexual assault in the military, but it makes a powerful flyer and propagates their misconceived point of view.

  6. Grammar Nazi  

    Bwog, it's courts martial. Not court martials.

    Just like Surgeons General. Not Surgeon Generals.

  7. Questions I'd like answered

    Assuming that ROTC comes to Columbia...

    Will ROTC-related classes be open to all students? Or, can you major in Military Science without enlisting?
    Is the ROTC instructor a Columbia employee or DoD employee?
    Will Columbia provide financial aid to those who lose ROTC scholarships for whatever non-academic reason?
    How will credits for ROTC courses be handled if a student wants to quit ROTC and take up a new major?

    • Some guesses

      Will ROTC-related classes be open to all students? Or, can you major in Military Science without enlisting?

      At most schools, yes, and yes.

      Is the ROTC instructor a Columbia employee or DoD employee?

      At most schools, both. The same way Adjunct Profs at the j-school or law school are both CU employees and employees of their respective newspapers/law firms.

      Will Columbia provide financial aid to those who lose ROTC scholarships for whatever non-academic reason?

      Yes. CC/SEAS finaid is all-need-met as you know.

      How will credits for ROTC courses be handled if a student wants to quit ROTC and take up a new major?

      They stay active, just like what would happen if a CC student decided to quit being a math major and be a history major instead. (My own case.. :o)

      • Anonymous

        Wait, so the controversy is all about whether Columbia wants to start and fund a Military Science program? I've got no problem with that. ROTC is just a scholarship program.

        • Some guesses

          Well, from what I heard last night, some possible reasons include:
          1. The military is an imperialist-racist-fascist-corporatist agent of imperialist-racist-fascist-corporatist-Americanist oppressment.
          2. The military is not in compliance with CU's nondiscrimination policy. But then again, so is Barnard College and the men's basketball team.
          3. Bronx public schools are really shitty.
          4. Israeli Army checkpoints that adjoin the Palestinian territories are also really shitty.
          5. The Spanish king in the 16th century plundered gold from the Aztecs and used it to fund his imperialist-racist-fascist-corporatist-Americanist oppressment.

  8. anti-rotc undergrad  

    hmmm obviously the reporter from the bwog did not stay the entire town hall. the anti-rotc side ended strong with a variety of arguments. also, id like to point out that there have been at the most 6-7 undergrad who have spoken in favor of rotc. the rest of that contingent is SIPA or business school VETERANS.

    other anti-rotc arguments that were brought up:

    -- high rate of rape and sexual abuse in the military. it is not a safe place for women.
    --the military is a fundamentally hierarchal and violent institution that contradicts the schools values
    --the amount of money the government spend on the military vs. the amount of money spent on education
    --we can have an open dialogue/ exchange of ideas among students, vets, ROTC students WITHOUT bringing ROTC back
    --the ROTC is the recruitment arm of the military, it is not a neutral educational program

    see you at the next town hall.

    • pro-rotc undergrad  

      -the rate of rate and sexual abuse may seem high but it is consistent with the national average and perhaps even lower than the rates experienced at colleges.

      -everything about society is hierarchical. i call my teachers "professor" and treat them with deference. so what? as regards the military being violent, so is our police force, should we abolish that too? sometimes violence is necessary to protect ourselves.

      -education is important too but keeping ROTC off campus will not increase education funding. this actually makes little sense because the ROTC gives scholarships to EXPAND education to lower income families.

      -clearly we cannot have an open dialogue when you are shouting things like RACIST and IMPERIALIST without actually knowing the person who is speaking.

      -what the hell does neutral even mean? don't we allow recruiters from wall street firms to come and recruit our students? listing off loosely defined qualities of the military and posing them as arguments is not going to win you this debate.

      what this comes down to is that you don't really care about expanding diversity or creating more tolerance for more groups, you care about tolerating only your own narrow worldview. thank god you're only a fringe element at this school.

    • by your logic

      colleges are not safe places for women either since the rate of sexual assault on college campus are the same as the military.

  9. enough

    with the transgender argument. The military specifically prohibits transsexuals from enlisting on medical grounds. ADHD, sleep walking, anerexia and pedophila are all medical disqualifies too. (Almost) everyone has an XX or XY. Deal with it.

    • The same medical grounds  

      As would have been good ones prior to 1986, when homosexuality was finally struck from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual?

      Gender Identity Disorder is in the DSM as a manifestation—and, evidently, cause—of social stigma. It reflects no more medical reality than did labelling homosexuality a disorder in the sixties and seventies. To pretend otherwise is to embrace a question-begging argument: if one defines as a disorder anything that the DSM calls a disorder, then, trivially, being trans counts as a disorder. But that reflects no relevant medical fact.

      Thank you, also, for the naked transphobia of your comment—your throwing paedophilia into that medical grab-bag has added such a bright shine to my day.

      • well

        anyone who wants to cut off their penis because they believe they shouldn't have one as a "woman" has a disorder just like people who want to cut of limbs and fingers because they think they'd be happier as an amputee (Body Integrity Identity Disorder). the only distinction is that transsexuals want to be treated like they don't have a disorder.

        • Those people  

          are called transsexuals. Most transsexuals do not have operations that alter their biology. I completely understand why you might not know that, considering most people know next to nothing about the transgendered community, so I won't call you stupid. Just try not to discuss things when you have no idea what you're talking about.

          • OP  

            Should be "Most transgendered individuals..." etc.

          • Actually

            the military specifically bars transsexuals (the medically defined desire/action to change your sex). I completely understand why you might not know that, considering most people know next to nothing about things people tell them they should blindly believe.

            Transgender is an ambiguous term that is very difficult to define but includes transsexual. Cross dressing is also under the transgender umbrella and the military's uniform standards could hardly be counted as discrimination.

            Just try not to discuss things when you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  10. question  

    What is the number or statistic of transgender Americans who wish (but are unable) to enlist? I feel as though this is seeking advocacy for a group that doesn't need it (in this realm).

    • Python fan

      This transgender argument reminds me of the following Python bit:

      FRANCIS: Why are you always on about women, Stan?

      STAN: I want to be one.

      REG: What?

      STAN: I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me 'Loretta'.

      REG: What?!

      LORETTA: It's my right as a man.

      JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?

      LORETTA: I want to have babies.

      REG: You want to have babies?!

      LORETTA: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.

      REG: But... you can't have babies.

      LORETTA: Don't you oppress me.

      REG: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a womb! Where's the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

      LORETTA: crying

      JUDITH: Here! I-- I've got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans', but that he can have the right to have babies.

      FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.

      • And many thanks to you  

        For implying that for a trans person to serve in the army is on a par with a sheer physical impossibility. Or sheer stupidity.

        • Python fan

          I think the point was more to mock you and your ilk from seizing on such a bizarre issue on matters of "principle" without stopping to even begin to consider the practical implications of your "principled" stance.

          After all, as Learned said, if Columbia really stands for its "principles" which the US military isn't in 100% harmonization with, then it should refuse the hundreds of millions of dollars of research funding it receives from the US government per year -- some of which is probably funding those smug entitled self-righteous anthropology PhD students. OH WAIT, THAT'S A THIRD OF OUR OPERATING BUDGET, SHIT WE CAN'T DO THAT!!!!

    • Python fan

      Sorry, forgot to put in the last bit.

      FRANCIS: Why are you always on about women, Stan?

      STAN: I want to be one.

      REG: What?

      STAN: I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me 'Loretta'.

      REG: What?!

      LORETTA: It's my right as a man.

      JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?

      LORETTA: I want to have babies.

      REG: You want to have babies?!

      LORETTA: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.

      REG: But... you can't have babies.

      LORETTA: Don't you oppress me.

      REG: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a womb! Where's the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

      LORETTA: crying

      JUDITH: Here! I-- I've got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans', but that he can have the right to have babies.

      FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.

      REG: What's the point?

      FRANCIS: What?

      REG: What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can't have babies?!

      FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.

      REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

    • full disclosure

      It doesn't matter how many trans people are interested in enlisting. That's not a viable argument, and it's prone to the worst kind of slippery-slope treatment.

      The fact of the matter is, those who oppose ROTC's return on the grounds that the military is not in line with Columbia's non-discrimination policies have a solid argument on their side. You simply cannot argue with the veracity of their position. You may choose to say that Columbia's non-discrimination policies should not be given precedence over school affiliations like ROTC, but so long as you understand that you are making a conscious choice to eschew one for the other. You can't rationalize your position on the grounds that no transgender people want to join Army (in the words of Buster) - because you don't and can't know how this would effect each and every individual (be they transgender or a slew of others who may not fit into a "traditional" category).

      For my part, I've decided to prioritize the well-being of the military over the well-being of the Columbia community. I think we, transgender students and gay students and straight students alike (or what have you), can afford to make some small sacrifices in the interests of making our armed forces more plural, more educated, and more liberal (with a small L).

      I know what it's like to be a part of an unwelcome minority in the military. I had to clench my teeth and keep quiet while people around me voiced some pretty awful and ignorant opinions about homosexuals. I made a sacrifice (a short-lived one, albeit), I chose to prioritize service over my own personal life. We, as citizens and as Americans, can take small measures to throw our own hats in with the men and women who put themselves in dangerous positions for us. This is a small measure - would it be violating some of our principles? Yes. I think there is little doubt that the military does not adhere to Columbia's policies. Is it worth it? Is it important to do it anyway? Yes.

      I love it here at Columbia, and I've met some incredibly intelligent people. I would be thrilled to serve under some of you as officers, I think many of you would make excellent ones. Yes, even better than many who attend other schools. This is Manhattan, and Columbia University, a bastion of liberalism and non-conformity. You can't understand how important it is in this modern age for military units to have open and acceptable diversity. I had superior officers and non-commissioned officers who attempted to foster safe and comfortable work environments for me, even though they had no idea I was gay. Then I had those who were utterly clueless - they had never met anyone different than themselves, and they couldn't imagine what kind of needs those people might have. Let's get involved in that. Let's be a part of giving our officers that imagination and life experience. The military is a very closed environment, we don't get a lot of interaction with the broader civilian population. We spend most of our time on bases, in military-oriented towns, or deployed. Somebody made the point at the meeting that there is no data available to prove whether or not changing the military from the inside has been or can be an effective strategy. I can tell you without pause that it does make a difference. I've seen it first hand, I've felt what difference it can make, and I pray to His Pastaness that the positive trend I witnessed is broadened and made more robust by introducing the population of our school to the future population of the officer corps.

      You want the military to start thinking outside of its own gates? Let's lead the way.

      • Dear Bwog  

        Best comment on the matter I've read so far. After reading this I have no more doubts, bring back ROTC.

      • Anonymous  

        This made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Please, if you haven't already, say this at the next meeting.

      • --  

        but, how? how is it that having this on campus will make the military "more plural, more educated, more Liberal"? i have yet to hear an argument that tells me how this will happen. we are just as diverse and intelligent as other campuses in the united states with rotc programs--how is that, during all of this time, with many gay people as part of the military, we only see a change occur from a repeal from the outside?

        • Ben

          I'm not sure I would agree that we are only just as diverse as other campuses in the United States. I think Columbia University has some remarkably unique aspects that are difficult to find in most of our country. Everything from its rather famous history regarding non-conformist action to its geographical location make this place notable. I don't mean to say that we're smarter than everyone so only we are worthy of training the US Military officer corps, but I do think that Columbia University in the City of New York has a lot to offer any student that simply can't be found anywhere else in the world. There are any number of examples of this, from hosting the President of Iran, to having the largest and most active pro-Palestinian group I've ever seen on a campus in a city that is home to something like a million Jews and Israelis. That's awesome. You can't get that anywhere else – not even in Jerusalem.

          That's how we introduce pluralism – this is exposure you just can't get at Texas A&M or Virginia Tech. Sure those students will be intelligent, well rounded, well educated, and ready to rule the world. But they won't get to walk through Harlem or go out in Chelsea or live ten minutes from some of the best museums and music venues available anywhere. They won't get to see the insanity of the gay pride parade or the Puerto Rican day parade. I'm drifting from the point, but I think you understand my meaning. We can offer things here at Columbia and in New York that nobody else in the world can offer. There is no debating that – this is one of the most diverse cities on the planet, and all due deference to Berkeley, it's also one of the most Liberal schools out there as well. Or at least that is the outside perception of us. Give us officers to talk to! Let us find out for ourselves what the budding elite of the military is like. Let them find out for themselves what the Blue New York Liberals are like.

          How cool would it be if ten, twenty years from now one of those unbelievably eloquent peace-activists who spoke at the event had an old college buddy on speed dial who wears a silver oak leaf on her shoulder? Imagine the relationships you might have, personally and professionally, that would enrich both of your lives. And you want to excise any possibility of that for what, a principled stance against all gender discrimination? Or because the military is somehow responsible for evil imperialistic colonial sexually abusive eating of poor minorities?

          You asked (and so I ramble…) how training officers at our school would enhance pluralism in the military. I would respond by asking how keeping them out helps either one of us, the school or the military? I'd be very pissed, too, if I were a transgender student and felt targeted. I more or less understand exactly how they feel. But what would you achieve with your victory? I know what you could achieve with your failure in this debate – you could sidle up to a cadet in class and make a friend, or start a discussion at the very least.

          As far as change in the military goes – it is governed by federal laws that are exceedingly difficult to change. The military operates on written policy. It's our gospel. However, given that, for example, pursuing gay people under DADT was up to the discretion of the individual commander, if you served under some ultra right-wing yokel who wanted to string the fags up from trees, you better be very careful about being discrete. If your commander, say, studied at Columbia University, he might be less inclined to accept circumstantial evidence or hearsay in regards to my sexuality, and would dismiss any accusations with a warning to the accuser rather than to me, the accused. This may be difficult to follow because without first-hand exposure to military bureaucracy it's not easy to see how even the smallest attitude changes would result in significant improvements in living and working environments. I don't know how to convey that to you other than to say: it does. I promise.

        • Stephen

          It mystifies me that so many people don't seem to realize that the military itself has no authority to end discrimination regarding who can enter the ranks. These decisions have to be made by Congress and/or the President - the military cannot legally do it itself. Witness this quote from the page on the subject (published before DADT was repealed):

          'The military didn't make up the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The military has no choice but to obey federal laws enacted by Congress and Executive Orders directed by the Commander-in-Chief (The President).'

          • Ben

            That said, the General Officer corps can and does influence policy by giving advice and testifying before Congress. The more officers trained in a liberal background, the more likely it is that Congress won't have the opportunity to parade a bunch of old curmudgeons in uniform who will tow the party line. All the more reason to encourage cadets to come to our school.

      • kudos  

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
        I may be a hopeless optimist, but I think a person has the power to improve an institution from the inside. I've been a part of organizations, clubs, teams, etc that have major flaws. To quit that group and criticize it from the outside does nothing but doom it to fail and you to bitterness.

        • --  

          this is simply not true, my friend. even veterans have only been able to organize from the outside (veterans against the war, etc) because they were being thrown into military jail. i would not refer to them as either bitter or failures. let us not forget that this 'group' (it's not just some club) operates under its own system of law.

          think about it. we allow people in the military to be on campus, and we are not saying that we will not allow people who are students at columbia to join the military. people can join, and if you think you can change the military from the inside, go for it. i don't see the problem in this.

          i do, however, question how this will affect our campus. what does it mean when we have a military program here in an official manner? what power does that give the military (as it is, now, and not just our ideals that have yet to manifest) here on campus?

          these are issues that have been confronted in the past, along with the discriminatory policy. i think we really need to discuss what this means for our school.

          • Ben

            Name some dangers, please. Seriously, how would having cadets on campus change life for the rest of us? What power would the government suddenly have over you and I that it doesn't already enjoy?

            I'm not sure what you mean about military protesters being thrown in jail - there are plenty of dissenters who have done so publicly and are not in jail. Active Duty military members have the right to petition their Congressperson without prejudice, and this has been given an extraordinary large latitude when it comes to protesting in uniform. There are a couple of famous examples of civil disobedience, which is illegal (kinda the point), and THOSE people are in jail or are being prosecuted. It kind of sounds like you're confused about the legal aspects of serving in the military and how that changes your responsibilities. We all took oaths and signed contracts agreeing to be governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which was written and codified and is maintained by Congress. It means servicemembers have fewer and different freedoms than us civilians do - it's part of the job.

            So, yeah, hand cuffing yourself to the White House in uniform is a felony. I don't care how just your cause is (and I happen to agree with that specific cause), but you're gonna spend some time in jail for that. Sorry. Thanks for doing it and getting that exposure so that I didn't have to! Sort of like what currently serving members of the military do for all of us every day...

        • Anonymous  

          yeah but allowing trans people into your organization/club, its unheard of. It shouldnt even been considered!!!!

      • moderate  

        Please submit this to the U Senate's ROTC task force @

        I am not for or against the ROTC returning to campus (though after reading your comment I admit I am a little swayed), but I think that positive messages from both sides should be the ones that reach the leaders of our community.

  11. Alex Jones  

    If I was there and heard a veteran heckled for being racist, I would have stood up and shouted at whoever said that.

    Veterans have earned the respect and understanding of all citizens. I want absolutely nothing to do with a community that is so disrespectful.

    We can all disagree about military policy, but all veterans should be honored for the sacrifices that they have made.

    • BC'13  

      While I definitely agree with your sentiment (honoring our veterans), standing up and shouting wouldn't have solved anything. That's the kind of participation we need less of, actually. I wasn't at the hearing, so I can't comment on the statements made by either side. However, you do have to keep in mind that we have students here who have lived through occupation by militaries, even ours. That's not something most of us can imagine, and while you don't have to like their reaction to the veteran's statements, you should keep in mind where they're coming from.

      • Anonymous  

        There is nothing to keep in mind when someone calls a veteran racist because they dont want to listen to him telling people his experience. There was not a racist comment just a reminder.
        Is his suffering any less valuable than theirs?

        • BC'13  

          No, it's not, and their suffering is not any less valuable than his. That's exactly my point. I'm not agreeing with calling him racist.

          There is always something to keep in mind, no matter how repulsive you may find someone or their views. All I'm saying is that everyone needs to take a step back and try to see it from more than one side because this is a very complex issue.

    • god damn!  

      just because someone is a veteran doesn't mean they automatically deserve respect. everyone deserves respect--even those that are invaded and mistreated by our veterans.

      while i don't doubt that there are great men and women in the armed forces who truly care about serving this country; i'm not gonna fucking salute the dickheads at abu gharib, or the soldiers on trial for rape--or any soldier who can justify their occupation.

  12. USMC

    We're here . . . with beer . . . deal with it.

  13. Katie Kornman

    Alex, I would have stood up next to you. To the person who used a forum for constructive debate to heckle someone with polemical rhetoric and who did this in the wake of the Arizona shooting - I am ashamed to be your peer. For hiding in the anonymity of the crowd, I call you a coward.

    To Full Disclosure - I agree wholeheartedly with your argument. The question we face here is about priorities. As future leaders in this country, we have a civic responsibility to participate in progress, even when it is incomplete.

    We need to increase the connection between our military and the rest of the country. We have a Congress made up of men and women, the overwhelming majority of whom have not served. Most of them have no family that serves. This kind of insulation only increases the likelihood that our soldiers, other people's children, will be sent to fight in a war we do not support. We need to stop fancying ourselves above service because of political views. Let the ROTC return to its rightful place on campus because it is the right thing to do for this country, even if it means a personal sacrifice for some.

  14. anonymous

    Who is making the sacrifice? The average (non-ROTC) student who has more courses available to him or her in a subject he or she may have known nothing about without ROTC on campus? Or the ROTC opponent who is \forced\ to see someone walking around in uniform on campus one day a week? Is this really a sacrifice?

    • Katherine Kornman

      I believe you are right - those are not large sacrifices to make. The sacrifices to which I was referring, however, are those potentially made by transgender students who feel alienated by the presence of the ROTC on campus. I sympathize with them. But their needs cannot be put above the needs of our country. We cannot expect the military to reflect our democratic principles when we isolate it from our community. We as a nation will from a more plural military just as we will benefit from the tradition of civic service that the ROTC can engender.

  15. Anonymous  

    Students on campus can already do ROTC--they just have to travel. The CIA recruits here, as does the FBI, and their lines are long.
    (So does Blackwater.)

    The historic block against the ROTC is gone in all but this last barrier.

    • should have listened to Learned's speech  

      the matter of logistics makes participating in the ROTC very difficult, some programs, like the air force ROTC, do not even have programs in Manhattan. the large college population of new york city is pitifully underrepresented by the one naval ROTC program, which is also a sizable distance from columbia. inconveniencing people who want to serve is a slap in the face and very disrespectful.

  16. Stephen  

    Where is this survey we are supposed to be getting? I'm in GS and haven't received it. Has anyone else gotten it yet?

  17. non-discrimination policy and ROTC

    Columbia would not be a pioneer as a university that hosts ROTC while enforcing a non-discrimination policy. Dean Moody-Adams dealt with ROTC at Cornell. President Bollinger dealt with ROTC as provost at Dartmouth and president of the University of Michigan. A plain reading of Columbia's non-discrimination policy shows ROTC does NOT violate the policy due to the military's transgender policies.

    Columbia's non-discrimination policy draws its enforcement authority from law and only bars unlawful discrimination. Generally, any area of the university that uses an entry standard different than the general admissions standard (which is already lawfully discriminatory) is discriminating. The issue is whether the particular discrimination is lawful or unlawful. Whatever your personal view of the military's transgender policies, they are lawful. Other categories of people at Columbia, otherwise covered by the non-discrimination policy, would be disallowed from commissioning as officers as well - because they're too old, disqualified for physical or mental reasons, have criminal records, are non-American citizens, etc.. Even some American student-veterans would be disqualified from commissioning as officers through ROTC. These particular discriminations are allowed because they are lawful and therefore not barred by the Columbia non-discrimination policy.

    That's not to say ROTC would be a closed off enclave. While some parts of ROTC are limited to cadets who committed to a commission, ROTC also is designed to be a general educational and interactive resource for the university. Many parts of ROTC normally are available to the general student body.

    One can fairly argue against including ROTC at Columbia over an abstracted principle of non-discrimination, but one cannot accurately claim ROTC violates Columbia's non-discrimination policy in any legally enforceable way.

  18. I am shocked

    ... and deeply saddened that someone shouted at the veteran. You may not agree with his opinions, or what he had to say, but he (should) have the right to say it without fear of being prevented from doing so.

  19. BC undergrad  

    Question: Why don't all Columbia University community members get to participate in the poll? Why SIPA and not other grad schools? Or faculty??

    • i wonder that too  

      Is it because SIPA is so supersmart about politics?

    • Stephen

      I think the reasoning of the task force is that the most relevant opinions will come from those schools that have had participation in ROTC within the last 5 years. So schools that have not historically had any student participation in the organization were excluded. I'm not expressing agreement or disagreement with this idea, just explaining what I believe the task force was thinking.

      • But...  

        Their reasoning seems flawed. All students and faculty will inevitably be affected by the presence of ROTC on campus, and it seems strange to not include everyone.

        Their reasoning makes it seem that they only want people with exposure to ROTC to have a say in matter..

        The email says nothing about ROTC historically having been involved: "Your five schools were selected ... because students from each have participated as cadets in off-campus ROTC programs in the past five years."

        But really, why should that matter..? Since it's a decision that affects us all.

        • Stephen

          I don't disagree with you. On the other hand, I also hope that the task force and the USenate will not rely solely on the outcome of a public opinion poll, whatever that outcome may be, in making its recommendation. Public opinion is often wrong. I hope they will make a decision that is evidence-based (as far as they are able to collect evidence).

        • moderate  

          I understand your reservations, but the rational, as I understand is like this:

          2/3 of the University is comprised of graduate students.

          Additionally, graduate students don't normally participate in ROTC because of the military's graduate degree requirements. This makes them (except for SIPA, the Law Schools and the Medical Schools) the least affected.

          If the graduate schools were to participate, the main participants would be the extreme ideologues from both sides.

          The shear numbers of the graduate students would drown-out the undergraduate schools voice. It is the undergraduates who will decide the return of a program.

          The only reason why SIPA is included is because last year a graduate student from SIPA commissioned into the Army through ROTC.

          It's all on the Senate website. Last five years.

    • Let's be serious  

      There is no way that a dozen or so undergrads in ROTC on-campus (which they already do off-campus) will hopelessly affect the School of Social Work or the Mailman School of Public Health or the Graduate School of Business or the Department of Microbiology or create "unsafe spaces" in the courtyards of Fayerweather.

      Grow up. Smell the roses of reality.

      • Hmm  

        That was a very strong response. Perhaps you could point out where you pulled the "unsafe spaces" comment? The argument to which you responded didn't attack ROTC at all.. it was a comment regarding the decision to exclude certain grad schools.

        And if these excluded (from the poll) grad students didn't care about ROTC or wouldn't be affected by its presence on our campus, they probably wouldn't show up to the Town Halls to voice their opinion, right? Because I've been to both of them and listened to many grad students argue for and against ROTC, and most of them weren't students in SIPA.


        • anon

          just because they care doesn't mean they should have a say

          • But  

            Why shouldn't they??? (get to vote in the poll)

          • Let's be serious  

            For the same reason the students of the College of Dental Medicine didn't get a chance to vote in a poll in the Law School's decision to allow JAG to recruit.

            For the same reason the students of the School of Social Work didn't get a chance to vote in a poll in the Med School's partnership with the military to accept commissioned officers on their faculty.

            For the same reason you didn't get a chance to vote on what Prezbo had for breakfast today.

          • OK  

            This is a Columbia University decision, not a Med school or Dentistry school decision.

            It affects everyone.

            Unless.. these grad schools aren't actually part of Columbia University's community? Strange.

          • Let's be serious  

            This is an undergrad issue. And maybe SIPA. Period. That's it.

            Military recruitment has been on campus since the Law School allowed JAG recruitment in 2003. There was no university-wide referendum then. And there shouldn't be one now.

          • It is definitely  

            It is definitely a University-wide issue.
            I found this on the facebook event for the CU Senate Public Hearing on ROTC, which was created by a supporter of bring ROTC back. It’s kind of interesting:
            “While this issue may not directly affect many students who are not military veterans or who do not have family members who have served, it affects ALL OF US as Columbia students.”
            See that?
            ALL OF US as Columbia students.

          • Let's be serious  

            You are honestly bolstering your argument on the basis of an opinionated statement posted by a random grad student on Facebook?

    • e-mail or town hall

      Comments at the town hall and e-mails to the task force are on the record. In their own way, they'll carry as much weight as the survey results.

  20. another question  

    Question: What is the role of ROTC going to be in Harlem? Are they going to get to recruit at Harlem schools?

    • no  

      Although I'm sure the military is already recruiting in Harlem, that's not what the ROTC does. The ROTC at Columbia would only be at Columbia.

    • I recruited for the Army in Harlem

      My Army recruiting station was in Harlem. I worked there 1 week as a hometown recruiter before flying out to my 1st duty station. I mostly remember visiting high schools, City College, and tabling in subway stations. My recruiter later told me I convinced a City College student to join the Army. The principals of the high schools we visited were friendly and helpful to the recruiting sergeants and seemed to view military service as a superior option for their students.

      Harlem residents who are NYC college students should be able to take ROTC at Columbia. It's possible that Harlem residents who aren't college students and looking to enlist could make the Columbia ROTC office their 1st stop, but they'd be redirected to the appropriate enlisted recruiter's office.

  21. Anonymous  

    Lets get serious about this issue,

    Stop creating absurd protests for an effective and important program missing here on campus. Transgender people NEED a little discrimination, get your mind right for christ sakes. Trans people dont belong in the military or any other normal program. The fact that people are defending this farce is an embarrassment to this school. Dont defend transgendered people.

    • Stephen

      I am pro-ROTC, and the type of argument you are making is not doing our side any favors. If you're going to continue to speak in favor of bringing ROTC back to campus, I would appreciate it if you would put your personal prejudices aside when you do so. These types of comments do not contribute to any sort of productive conversation and they are, in my opinion, hateful and inappropriate.

    • Anonymous

      previous comment sounds like it was planted to try and remove real conversation from happening.

      • Dear Bwog  

        It would appear that this person has been planting comments about transgendered students. Their comments are within minutes of one another. Don't listen to the BS, let's keep this debate healthy and civil. The track button is a motherfucker!

        The comments are listed below:

        16 Feb 10:11 pm
        "yeah but allowing trans people into your organization/club, its unheard of. It shouldnt even been considered!!!!"

        16 Feb 10:09
        "Are you people kidding? Transgendered people are so grossly unfit for military service as well as just everyday life. Trans people shouldn’t be complaining about their inability to fit into an organization in which they clearly dont belong."

        Feb 16 10:05pm
        Lets get serious about this issue,
        "Stop creating absurd protests for an effective and important program missing here on campus. Transgender people NEED a little discrimination, get your mind right for christ sakes. Trans people dont belong in the military or any other normal program. The fact that people are defending this farce is an embarrassment to this school. Dont defend transgendered people."

  22. anon

    way to disagree cordially buddy

  23. anon

    sorry bwog that was replied in the wrong place

  24. It is definitely  

    It is definitely a University-wide issue.

    I found this on the facebook event for the CU Senate Public Hearing on ROTC, which was created by a supporter of bring ROTC back. It's kind of interesting:

    "While this issue may not directly affect many students who are not military veterans or who do not have family members who have served, it affects ALL OF US as Columbia students."

    See that?
    ALL OF US as Columbia students.

  25. it's definitely not  

    Did you read moderate's comments above?

  26. Van Owen

    I just got word from a very credible source that ROTC will be invited back to Columbia.

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