ROTC Update: Conclusion & Context

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The Task Force has closed its survey and conducted its hearings. Audio recordings for all three are posted online, as are the first two transcripts—the final one is expected within the next few days. The Task Force will continue to accept e-mail submissions and post them for consideration until 11:59 PM on Wednesday, March 2, 2011. The results will be announced when the report is delivered on March 4th. In other higher education news, former US Secretary of State and current Stanford professor of political science Condoleezza Rice has also announced her support of the “full reinstatement” of ROTC at Stanford University.

If you’ve felt overwhelmed by the heatedness of the debate, we’d like to provide a little bit more context on two facets of the issue, one against ROTC’s return: how transgender discrimination affects the issue; and one for: the nature of military engagement as it already exists at Columbia.

The crux of the transgender issue is this: Columbia’s administration was opposed to ROTC’s return in order to support the gay members of their community. Under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, openly gay people were not allowed to serve in the military. Even with the repeal of DADT, openly transgender people are still not allowed to serve in the military. Thus by agreeing to military engagement after DADT’s repeal, Columbia is ostensibly not according the same respect to the rights of transgender people as they did to homosexuals.

Sean Manning Udell, president of both the CC Class of 2011 and the Columbia Queer Alliance, gave an interview earlier this week to Joe Crummey on WABC’s radio broadcast. Though he firmly stated that neither he nor the Columbia Queer Alliance were opposed to the US military, he reiterated the point that the ROTC is still in violation of Columbia’s non-discrimination policy, as the ROTC still prohibits the participation of transgender individuals in its program. You can find the interview here, with Udell’s interview beginning at 20:40.

It is worth noting that one of the principal arguments against ROTC’s return is a fear of “militarization of the campus”. The Task Force has recently updated a report on military engagement at Columbia, stating that “Columbia University has limited engagement with the military beyond the question of ROTC.” This arguably makes the issue of militarization a moot point, and thus could work in favor the ROTC’s return. On the Senate’s website they’ve broken down the ways Columbia currently interacts with the military. We’ve highlighted the main points of their information.

Yellow Ribbon Program (Veterans)

  • Many Columbia schools participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, sponsored by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which furnishes student veterans with a tuition waiver or grant matched by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “420 veterans attend Columbia under the program’s auspices, with over 300 at the School of General Studies.”

Military Recruitment

  • Under the Solomon Amendment, Columbia Law School (CLS) is required to allow military recruitment on its campus; otherwise, it risks losing federal grants. Bwog recently posted a letter signed by 72 CLS faculty members stating their disapproval of on-campus military recruitment on the basis of its support of the university’s non-discrimination policy.
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) participates in Armed Forces residency programs, which “facilitate postgraduate training in general and specialized medicine, and comes with a commission as an officer.” Several doctors serving as military officers are also P&S faculty.

Academic Programs

  • Teachers College (TC) participates in the Eisenhower Leader Development Program, a joint program between TC and West Point. Military officers selected as “Company Tactical Officers” study in the TC joint program in Social-Organizational Psychology (Leadership Development) while also serving as instructors at West Point. “Completion of the Eisenhower Leader Development Program leads to an MA from Teachers College and a three-year service obligation.”
  • West Point sends students to the GSAS Department of Political Science each year, sponsoring their tuition, fellowship, and living expenses. Students are admitted to the Political Science PhD program under the same policies and standards governing normal GSAS admission. After they complete their degrees, students (already commissioned officers) begin their active service obligation.

Military Research

  • Columbia University participates in research financed by the Department of Defense’s Basic Research funding. The university recently received an increase in DoD research funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e. the federal stimulus package).

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  1. USMC

    We're here... with beer... get used to it!

    (PS. My Bwog captcha is "shall return".)

  2. CC '08

    you spin the transgender issue as if it were simply a matter of discrimination and nothing else. in the case of someone who's transexual, it makes sense why the military would opt to disallow enlistment--these are individuals with a very specific set of medical needs, and the military already has limited resources as it is. there are thousands of medical reasons that preclude one from enlisting, so to claim that disallowing transexuals is simply a matter of discrimination is to take the issue completely out of context. as for transgender individuals who aren't transexuals, i think it's far less clear how exactly the military would actually discriminate against these individuals, and in my experience no one has been able to successfully explain exactly what that discrimination looks like.

    moving beyond the military, it would be more apropos to direct concern regarding transgender discrimination toward the American Psychiatric Association, which considers transgenderism to be a "gender identity disorder." perhaps every columbia psychiatrist who's a member of the APA should be boycotted any time he/she speaks at an event on campus. at the very least, this might get the APA to start reconsidering its stance. ultimately, to expect ROTC/the military to be at the vanguard of all social progress is ludicrous, and it's unfair to those columbia students who want to have an ROTC program on campus.

    • Finally  

      Thank you. Intelligent and well argued.

      • CC '11  

        Actually... not at all. This persona clearly has no idea what s/he is talking about. First of, the policy is a ban on *transgender* individuals, not *transsexual* individuals. The distinction is that 'transgender' includes a range of people, from people who cross-dress in their spare time to transsexuals.

        Moreover, transpeople do not require "special medical needs": one they've transitioned, their medical needs are no different from anyone else; before they've transitioned, their medical needs are no different from anyone else. The only time when there might be a problem would be if they were ACTUALLY TRANSITIONING while serving. And none of this can explain why trans veterans who trasitioned AFTER serving are being denied equal access to V.A. hospitals, facilities, etc.

        Honestly. Educate yourself.

        • CC '08

          If you read again what I wrote, you'll notice that I do in fact recognize transsexualism as only a subset within the larger category of transsexualism.

          As for your assertion that one undergoes transitioning and then has no further medical needs related to that process, i can guarantee you that you're wrong. do you really think a doctor would perform such an operation and then say, 'see ya later, no more follow up necessary'? to the contrary, such an operation requires years (if not a lifetime) of follow-up to ensure no associated complications. all of this is completely separate from the hormone therapy and the potential morbidity associated with that. not to mention the fact that gender-changing operations represent a relatively new frontier in medicine, meaning that very little is known about the long-term adverse impacts.

    • CC Junior  

      "...ultimately, to expect ROTC/the military to be at the vanguard of all social progress is ludicrous..."

      Yes, it is very true that ROTC/the military is not at the vanguard of all social progress, but that is all more the reason that we should not accept its return to campus. Accepting its return would acquiesce to its less-than-desirable social stance, as well as popular opinion, which ignores the rights of transgender individuals.

      Transgender individuals (not all undergo sex-changes or require it) feel as strongly about their identity as homosexual men and women. Fifty years ago, the U.S. identified homosexuality as a mental disorder-- this was popular opinion. Today, however, we realize it to be untrue and accept it as a natural phenomenon, one which we integrate into our society. ROTC, however, continues to discriminate against transgender individuals, just as it discriminated against homosexuals fifty years ago. The Columbia community was wise to popular opinion, protected the values this institution holds so dearly, and made a statement by voting to keep ROTC off-campus.

      I believe Columbia remains wise, and I challenge each Columbia student to question the beliefs of the majority of Americans. ROTC continues to discriminate against transgender individuals, similarly as much as it discriminated against your homosexual peers and floormates fifty years ago (and to a lesser extent, today). Let's make a statement, and let's tell ROTC that its social position is not ideal.

      This is an opportunity to let the U.S. know that there are individuals whose civil rights we do not give entirely. If you believe that ROTC does not discriminate against transgender individuals, then you ignore the rights and sentiments fundamental to our society. You would further believe that transgender identity is unreal, and that instead, it is a mental disorder which requires medical treatment, just in the same ways Americans felt about homosexuals.

      I ask you to advance your mind fifty years, and I ask you to choose a belief system which will remain for at least equally as long. Vote "No" to ROTC, uphold the values this institution holds so strongly, and take this opportunity to tell the U.S. that there are individuals whose civil rights we do not give entirely.

      • CC '08

        i don't personally view transgenderism as a mental disorder; my point was simply that the prevailing medical opinion in this country does. as for your comparison to homosexuality, i think you miss a subtle but very important distinction: homosexuality is not a choice, while the decision to undergo a sex change operation is indisputably a choice. and a fine one at that--but should the military pay for sex change operations (as it does in canada) and all the maintenance associated with them? i don't have the answer to that, but i know who does--the american people, via their vote. not columbia university. as for transgender individuals who are not transsexuals, as i've mentioned before, it's far less clear what discrimination against such people would look like in a post DADT world.

        • Anonymous  

          You miss a more important point, where transgender identity is different than transsexual identity. Transgender individuals do not necessarily undergo an operation, and therefore would not incur any of the medical costs which the crux of your argument claims.

  3. I wonder  

    what the faculty think of the "militarized" polisci dept and Teachers College, which have commissioned officers attending their programs, and going to their classes.

    • I'm sick of the militarization argument

      Free tickets and beer for the Homecoming game? Athleticization of campus.
      Getting Obama and McCain to speak? Politicization of campus.
      Ahmadinnerjacket visits, with NYPD helicopter hovering overhead? Terrorization of campus.
      Allowing little kids to roam around like they own the place? Youthification of campus.

      ROTC isn't gonna turn the Columbia administration into a military junta. It's not gonna restrict the free exchange of information and ideas. Princeton - PRINCETON! - has an ROTC program. Last time I checked, I didn't have to go through a military checkpoint or salute every person.

  4. CC 12

    I really think that people who think a few ROTC guys wearing uniforms for a very limited time and at a designated place would have so much effect to militarize the campus should get a chance to familiarize with army people to understand that they're not scary at all.

  5. USMC

    Oh yeah? “Obedience to the chain of command” is these professors' final point of impact? — As if the Neo-Marxist Whigs at Barnard and Columbia promote a free atmosphere of expression. There is enough indoctrination and rigid training going on here to warrant a campus uniform of their own — with a red star. This is the last hurrah for the sixties throwbacks who never left academia. Mencken said, “Those who can – do. Those who can’t teach.” They speak of democracy. We military men and women and our predecessors built democracy with our sweat and blood. These professors have the luxury to idealize it from the safety and comfort of their classrooms and coffee pots. My argument will only go so far,sadly, for these people who believe work is the three or four contact hours per week they give in class. Boo.

    and for "shall return" -- fight the good fight, but don't steal my handle man.

    • people  

      that gave this a 'thumbs up' better be in the service. if you're just cu brats, then you're liking out of guilt that you don't do shit except idealize, too. oh, and maybe fight for rotc to be on campus so you can later use the point for the political careers your planning.

      lemme know, lemme know...which one of youse dems or repubs presidents are gonna join the rotc?

    • ...  

      uhh... indoctrination... err... Neo-Marxist whigs... ummm.... Red Star hippies.
      Seems like you really have a hang of this freedom of expression thing that academia so woefully lacks.

    • ...  

      "We military men and women and our predecessors built democracy with our sweat and blood"

      Now however over one hundred thousand civilians are dead in Iraq (by the absolute lowest estimates). However honorable the actions of military were in the past, those days are long gone. Sorry if I'm not on my knees singing your praises

      • USMC

        Are you Christian or Muslim or Jewish? How many people are dead because of your organization? How many have died from your religion? And we have Islam appreciation day. I'm supposed to be tolerant of you. You may not appreciate the military, but we built the house you live in. I say if ROTC isn't allowed, we organize anyway.

      • Killed by who

        I love seeing this stat thrown around.

        This stat contains: The number of Iraqi military during the invasion, the civilians killed by the Iraqi military during the invasion, the Iraqis and current foreign residents killed by insurgents, and all other violent crime that has happened since the invasion.

        I guess one could argue that none of them would have died if the US never invaded.

        Then the again the same one would have to remember the NY Times article in September of '09 that printed:
        "he [Saddam] murdered as many as a million of his people, many with poison gas. He tortured, maimed and imprisoned countless more. His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead. His seizure of Kuwait threw the Middle East into crisis. More insidious, arguably, was the psychological damage he inflicted on his own land. Hussein created a nation of informants — friends on friends, circles within circles — making an entire population complicit in his rule."

        Not that one violence is better than another. Just saying.

        • Anonymous  

          Yeah you're right, the US takes out every brutal dictat...wait a minute

        • ...  

          and that stat doesn't take into account iraqi military, it just includes civilians

          • google

            Here you go, the wikileaks that ROTC is not encouraged to use:

            (BTW every counter understands the difficulties in differentiating civilians from combatants in a war where even at times the military, much less the insurgency, didn't wear uniforms or have proper military ID)

            Iraq war logs
            Classified US military documents released by WikiLeaks in October 2010, record Iraqi and Coalition military deaths between January 2004 and December 2009. The documents record 109,032 deaths broken down into "Civilian" (66,081 deaths), "Host Nation" (15,196 deaths),"Enemy" (23,984 deaths), and "Friendly" (3,771 deaths).

            Iraqi Health Ministry
            The Health Ministry of the Iraqi government recorded 87,215 Iraqi violent deaths between January 1, 2005, and February 28, 2009. The data was in the form of a list of yearly totals for death certificates issued for violent deaths by hospitals and morgues. The official who provided the data the Associated Press said the ministry does not have figures for the first two years of the war, and estimated the actual number of deaths at 10 to 20 percent higher because of thousands who are still missing and civilians who were buried in the chaos of war without official records.

            Ali al-Shemari (earlier Iraqi Health Minister)
            Concerning war-related deaths (civilian and non-civilian), and deaths from criminal gangs, Iraq's Health Minister Ali al-Shemari said that since the March 2003 invasion between 100,000 and 150,000 Iraqis had been killed. "Al-Shemari said on Thursday [November 9, 2006] that he based his figure on an estimate of 100 bodies per day brought to morgues and hospitals – though such a calculation would come out closer to 130,000 in total."For more info see farther down at Iraq Health Minister estimate in November 2006.

            Iraq Body Count.org
            Iraq Body Count (IBC) records the violent civilian deaths that have resulted from the 2003 military intervention in Iraq. Its public database includes deaths caused by US-led coalition forces and paramilitary or criminal attacks by others.
            The Iraq Body Count project (IBC) figure of 94,902 — 103,549 civilian deaths reported in English-language media (including Arabic media translated into English) up to December 2009 includes civilian deaths due to coalition and insurgent military action, sectarian violence and increased criminal violence.

        • CC '11  

          I think you mean "killed by whom," you ignorant fuck.

  6. Anonymous  

    "It is worth nothing that one of the principal arguments against ROTC’s return is a fear of “militarization of the campus”. "
    maybe you mean "it is worth noting?"

  7. bwog  

    you are such slanted journalism.

  8. ?  

    \This arguably makes the issue of militarization a moot point\

    does it now?

  9. ROTC and non-discrimination policy

    Question: Can ROTC, under current law, co-exist on campus with Columbia's non-discrimination policy, as currently written?

    My answer: Yes.

    Using the non-discrimination policy as the reason for excluding a critical part of society from the University is a dangerous interpretation of the policy. In principle, the non-discrimination policy is meant to promote organic diversity and constructive engagement on campus, and protect inclusion at Columbia, which rightfully includes ROTC along with other critical relationships that may be cast as discriminatory in some aspect, such as a women's college and religions. Advancing the university's higher pedagogical and public service missions through real diversity, engagement, and inclusion will necessitate, at times, some sensitive trade-offs; the non-discrimination policy addresses the friction that may result. Columbia's non-discrimination policy becomes grossly corrupted when it is misused as a tool of exclusion, as has happened with ROTC at Columbia.

    Barnard's admissions policy is the clearest example that, when justified by the greater good, lawful accomodations with the non-discrimination policy are made for existing University associations. I believe other similar examples at Columbia can be found. The question is not whether lawful accomodations can be made with the non-discrimination policy, because they already are. The proper question is whether a lawful accomodation is justified for the greater good.

    Just as importantly, it does not appear from a plain reading of Columbia's non-discrimination policy that hosting ROTC on campus, under current law, would in fact violate Columbia's non-discrimination policy.


    From opening paragraph: Columbia University is committed to providing a learning environment free from unlawful discrimination and harassment . . . Consistent with this commitment and with applicable laws, it is the policy of the University not to tolerate unlawful discrimination . . .

    Key phrasing is "unlawful discrimination". Whatever is one's personal opinion of it, military personnel policy is lawful, not unlawful.

    From opening paragraph: Consistent with this commitment and with applicable laws . . .

    Key phrasing is "applicable laws". Anti-discrimination laws for ordinary civilian employers have sometimes been cited in the case against ROTC at Columbia. However, for obvious reasons, laws that regulate ordinary civilian employers do not apply to military personnel policy, which is regulated by separate federal statutes and case law.

    From second paragraph: Columbia University does not discriminate against any person in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other University-administered programs . . .

    Key phrasing is "its [Columbia's] ... policies". Military personnel policy is set by the federal government and is not Columbia's policy. Military personnel policy is limited to a defined jurisdiction. A distinction can be made between the military's commissioning requirements and the academic program on campus. In order to serve its wider pedagogical function, much of the ROTC program normally is open to the general student body. Other universities that host ROTC with non-discrimination policies similar to Columbia's policy are able to distinguish between university policy and federal policy. President Bollinger, as the former provost of Dartmouth AROTC and former president of UMichigan AROTC, AFROTC, and NROTC, is well-suited to manage the ROTC relationship on campus.

    From third paragraph: Nothing in this policy shall abridge academic freedom or the University’s educational mission.

    The superseding provision in Columbia’s non-discrimination policy retains the University's discretion to promote the “University's educational mission” notwithstanding any other provision of the non-discrimination policy. The University Senate is deciding whether ROTC will be included in the University’s educational mission. While Columbia can decide to exclude ROTC, the same discretion allows Columbia to add ROTC to the University's educational mission without compromise.

    From Definitions: Discrimination is defined as: • treating members of a protected class less favorably because of their membership in that class; or • having a policy or practice that has a disproportionately adverse impact on protected class members.

    Lawful accomodations, such as Barnard's admissions policy, do not infringe the protection of a legally "protected class". As a practical matter, ROTC enhances the course offerings for Columbia students, while the addition of ROTC on campus would not subtract nor replace anything that currently exists for students. Nor would ROTC require Columbia to rewrite the non-discrimination policy. "Military status" enumerated as a legally protected class in Columbia's non-discrimination policy also ensures that members of ROTC would be protected and raises the question of the University's responsibility to Columbia's ROTC students.

    From Definitions: Discriminatory Harassment - Discriminatory harassment is defined as substantially interfering with an individual's educational experience by subjecting him or her to severe or threatening conduct or to repeated humiliating or abusive conduct, based on his or her membership in a protected class.

    ROTC and its manifestations on campus (office, classes, training, etc.) would not be a separate zone on campus that allows discriminatory harassment. ROTC cadre and participating students would be held to the same standards of behavior as all Columbians. Columbia students should feel as safe in ROTC offices as anywhere else on campus.

  10. Anonymous  

    i'm so tired of hearing about ROTC EVERYONE SHUT THE FUCK UP!

  11. Anonymous  

    USA! USA! USA!

  12. recent alum

    I have an (actual, honest) question. This is addressed to the anti-ROTC folks. The impression I got from the anti-ROTC faculty statement is that one of the main bones of contention when it comes to "militarization of campus" is wearing a uniform to class.

    I mean, we currently have enrolled ROTC students or are currently in the military right now (there is an Army Reservist in CC who is currently deployed to Iraq-he recently wrote in the Spec). I always knew I would join when I graduated (and I did) and I'd imagine that this sort of perspective shaped my contribution to discussions throughout my time at Columbia.

    Is this understanding, then, correct, that UNIFORMED presence is really the lynchpin of the issue when it comes to "militarization of campus?" Or is it the presence of professors affiliated with the ROTC program and (in my opinion, unfounded) and fears that they will somehow spy on students, etc. (as has been brought up in some of the comments in the Town Halls)?

  13. non alum  

    shut the fuck up recent alum. go do something fun now that ur not here.

  14. Anonymous  

    I am pretty sure Hiroshima and Nagasaki more than compensated for those.

  15. Van Owen

    Tyler Durden said it best, “We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.”I just can't trust anything that bleeds for five days and does not die.

  16. could someone

    explain exactly how the military discriminates against transgenders who are not transsexuals? Transsexuals are barred due to the costly medical care needed (just like others with high maintenance diseases) but I haven't seen an example of transgender discrimination yet. Don't just say they are not allowed to enlist. Give the reason the military gives for it. Also, include the source.

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