BREAKING: Student Councils and Groups Meeting to Hold Referendum on ROTC

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Yes, you read that right. Sources confirm that representatives from the CC, GS, and SEAS student councils, in conjunction with SGB, the College Democrats, CQA, CPU, the Hamilton Society, and the College Republicans, have been meeting since school began to discuss plans for a student referendum on the return of Naval ROTC to campus.

At this time, Bwog can also confirm that one current version of the referendum could have three answers:

1.) yes to allowing ROTC

2.) yes to allowing ROTC (provided it stops employing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy)

3.) no to allowing ROTC.

But according to a student representative, the ballot could also be a simple yes/no.

The referendum, if it passes the undergraduate councils, will be held after the national presidential elections. If the initiative passes the student vote, it will then move to the University Senate. The last referendum on ROTC occurred in 2005, and was struck down by the University Senate, 51 to 11 53 to 10, with 5 abstentions.

Planning for this began last May, and several meetings have been held since the start of the school year. The Obama-McCain double endorsement of ROTC (and subsequent national media attention on Columbia’s ROTC ban) only accelerated the process. Bwog will keep you updated with more developments as they happen.

UPDATE 9:34 PM: For those curious about Barnard’s students, there are BC students on the commission and the details of Barnard’s involvement are unclear at this point.

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  1. ROTC advocate

    The last student-only referendum on ROTC was in 2003, conducted by CCSC with the help of Students United for America, which resulted in a 2-to-1 vote in favor of ROTC at Columbia.

    The Case for ROTC at Columbia:

    Also, 18 Reasons for ROTC to Return:

  2. i say  

    we should only really consider ROTC once DADT is repealed.

  3. ...

    What the fuck? ROTC?

    I really hope council stands up to the right-wingers trying to push this into our campus... I'm proud that Columbia doesn't promote military culture on campus

    And I know Obama supported it but what do you expect him to do? He has to try and win over moderates...

    Anyways, how the hell is this referendum going to work? A studend body wide election isn't going to occur until April... I doubt voter turnout will be significant for this...

    • conservative  

      "right-wingers trying to push this into our campus... I'm proud that Columbia doesn't promote military culture on campus"

      The government is composed of more than just right winders. And simply OFFERING ROTC doesn't mean we would be promoting military culture. There's a S&M student group on campus, but this doesn't mean Columbia is promoting S&M on campus.

  4. pro-choice  

    i think its silly when people are pro-choice when it comes to abortions, but anti-choice when it comes to the military

  5. actually  

    dear bwog,

    read the corrections in the nytimes article:

    "The vote was 53 to 10, with 5 abstentions, not 51 to 11."

  6. conservative  

    It's funny how fickle liberals can be, especially when half of audience at the ServiceNation viewing on Low applauded after Obama said ROTC should be at Columbia. NOW, Columbia decides it wants ROTC back?¿?

  7. this  

    is pathetic. Are we going to allow a God Hates Fags chapter on campus next?

  8. Gross!  

    Who do we tell to stop this crap from spreading right wing manure all over campus yet again?

  9. generally though

    you don't get college credit for the s and m club. it isn't just a political thing, it is also a pedagogical one.

  10. This  

    blows. Why do student councils suck so much? Who is pushing this through? I demand answers!!

  11. Financial Aid  

    If Columbia were truly opposed to the discriminatory policies of the military, then why would it accept ROTC-related financial aid for its students? If you participate in the ROTC program elsewhere, you can apply that financial aid here.

    Also, we should expose ourselves more to the military. Perhaps more of us would see it as an option for service if we allowed ROTC on campus. In fact, had we not banned ROTC in the first place, maybe a Columbia alum would be a leading voice within the military today in calling for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

    Our "protest" of ROTC is having absolutely no effect on the DADT policy. Instead, we just become a laughingstock.

  12. anonymous

    you try being gay and right wing. then you can argue for rotc on campus. until then, shut up.

  13. Alum

    You anti-ROTC people are ridiculous in your hypocrisy. You blast the military for not allowing openly gay soldiers (not exactly God Hates Fags, but nice try?), and yet you are totally closed-minded towards a military culture about which you know nothing.

    You don't want to join ROTC or the military? Fine. Leave the choice up to others rather than making it for them. Just don't take away from the organization that has shaped an America where you can sit in front of a computer complaining about it.

  14. question

    "yes to allow ROTC without the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy"

    how would it be possible to have ROTC without don't ask don't tell? have individual chapters at other schools done this and have they had any success as far as creating a safe climate for out LGBT people?

  15. mat

    am I missing something, or is offering option #2, you know, idiotic? for one thing, it's inapposite, as the (well, a) case for banning ROTC is precisely the existence of DADT, and the case against banning ROTC is that allowing it is the only way to influence the DADT discussion--that is, once ROTC is back, not making its acceptance conditional on DADT's being removed. also...what?

    and the consequences are going to be terrible. It completely loads the referendum, biases it in favor of keeping ROTC away, by refusing to force some students to make the hard decision. Those whose objection to ROTC is DADT now can avoid the practical question in favor of what is, in reality, a poll question that has been elevated to the voting booth. And worse: those in that boat who wish DADT weren't so but ultimately think ROTC should still be allowed on campus, perhaps even in part for anti-DADT reasons (like, er, me), now feel that, in voting to allow ROTC back, we are not most accurately conveying our anti-DADT views. Terrible, terrible.

  16. ROTC advocate

    The restoration of ROTC at Columbia will open many positive benefits. The return of ROTC will infuse military perspectives and help the student body learn a balanced view of the military and soldiers, and their role in society. New academic options and career choices will be made available to students. Military perspectives and values will enhance Columbia’s marketplace of ideas. ROTC scholarships will be a viable option to finance students’ educations. A native cadet population will diversify and enrich the Columbia community. Class disparities will diminish both in the military, as more privileged citizens embrace military service, and at Columbia, as more underprivileged students will have the means to attend the university. The American people will rebuild their faith in Columbia as a leadership institution that embodies the civic values of nation building, service, duty and the greater good.

    For critics of DADT, the return of ROTC and the closure of Columbia’s anti-military reputation will restore a realistic platform for Columbia to address the law. Columbia will be able to lobby for change in the political arena while working directly with the military to teach its future leaders.

  17. liberal  

    Hey "conservative," I support ROTC on campus. But is there really an S&M group on campus?

    My depraved liberal mind has had its interest piqued.

  18. liberal  

    oh shut the fuck up. yeah and gays (this one included) have the choice to marry women if they want. you want to talk about patronizing? shut your goddamn mouth.

    there's absolutely no practical reason to banning their presence on campus. our policy is not doing anything to change DADT.

    you know what would change DADT? if we actually were in the military speaking out against it

    whatever you guys. go back to protesting grape migrant worker treatment

    • that is  

      entirely ridiculous. how can you compare marriage and abortion to ROTC? i just don't understand how you can try to make your case using a comparison as far-fetched as that. i don't care what the fuck you think about ROTC, just don't compare life-changing rights and choices to something that you can take a subway to participate in. i don't exactly think having to take a train ride is comparable to gays not being able to marry who they choose and women being allowed to make choices about their own bodies.

      and i guess since columbia's boycott against ROTC hasn't changed anything, the university should just throw their beliefs out the window and say "fuck it, at least we tried?" i mean, really now. gays can't participate in the military and speak out against DADT, because HIIII they would get kicked out. that's the whole fucking point of DADT.

  19. ROTC advocate

    I was one of the leaders of the 2002-2005 ROTC return campaign. I'm a liberal.

    As a Columbia ROTC advocate, If I actually conformed to this parody of right-wing extremism, you know what? I would want Columbia and the military to stay segregated, not integrated.

    In actuality, the military and Columbia have much to offer each other. If anything, Columbia needs the military more than the military needs Columbia.

  20. democrat  

    Just registering that I'm liberal and also support the return of ROTC to campus. DADT is a mindbogglingly bad and unjust policy but I don't think this is the right way to protest it.

  21. i don't  

    care that much one way or the other - i think that very very few people would join ROTC were it allowed on campus - I can't see any of the CU GOP kids joining, and I really can't think of anyone else who would.

    but i think that conservatives comparing the lack of choice to participate in ROTC here, to the possible lack of the choice to abort a pregnancy are ridiculous:
    if you want a military experience, whether or not Columbia offers ROTC you can enlist before, during, or after your time here - the same would not be true if anti-choice legislation were passed.

    2 of my childhood friends enlisted after high school (one did a tour in Iraq, & the other worked at a base in Japan) and I've gotta say that being in the marines hasn't done shit for them educationally. the GI bill is absolute crap - it's way too small to substancially subsidize any private education and both friends regret the decision - not because anything terrible happened to them but because they lost 4 years of their lives.

  22. referendum  

    Just to put this out there: are pro-ROTC activists making a brilliant move by offering options 2 and 3, which will likely split the anti-ROTC-with-DADT vote? Would it hurt the effort if choice 1 wins with, say, 40% while 2 and 3 collect a total of 60%? I'm interested in how people think this plays out politically. Would it have been better for the pro-ROTC effort if it were simply a choice between "bring it back now" and "don't bring it back"? Presumably, with three choices, it is unlikely that choice 1 will win a majority. Perhaps choice 2 could, however.

  23. meh.  

    I'm not sure about this. It's discriminatory to allow it and discriminatory not to (albeit in this case against someone's personal CHOICE, not identity). I don't know.

  24. hmmm..

    gay and republican? i guess it's like being a part of any minority group and being a republican. you think they care about you and your needs, but they actually don't even if you admit that Jesus is your lord and savior. Don't pounce, I think I'm just stating the obvious.

  25. ...  

    it's worth noting that this is not just a columbia issue.

    both harvard and tufts have banned rotc, and allow participation by cross-registering at mit.

    mit itself has wavered on the issue, coming close to banning rotc themselves. however, given mit's long and storied relationship with the department of defense, this was shelved.

    i'm of the opinion that columbia university sets the rules of conduct on its own campus, not the us military. if the us military wants to partner with the university, that is fine, but they must behave as a real guest of the university and do so on the university's terms.

  26. gop alum

    Some CU GOP kids in the past have participated in Fordham ROTC and so have many non GOP Columbia students. I really hate the discussion of how the evils of Republicanism and the military are combined. There is no reason to think that all conservatives should want to be in the Army and then judge them for not going into the military after graduation. You all should be really happy that the military is there to protect this country and not belittle people for any of the many reasons that led them to enlist.

  27. YOH  

    Fernando Perez of the TB Rays "who went to nearby Columbia University, hit a three-run drive for Tampa Bay, which started the trip with a 3 1/2-game lead in the East." (AP)


  28. Anonymous

    "Conservatives" never are.

    Sieg Heil and enjoy the government you deserve.

  29. 2 Can Play This Game

    Hell, why bother allowing gay marriage/civil unions in New York? Can't they just go to Connecticut, New Jersey, or Massachusetts to do so? Hell, NJ is a lot closer than Fordham anyway! And they only have to go one time, that's not so inconvenient, is it?

    I bet that got some blood boiling, but I hope it made some see the stupidity of the "they can go to Fordham" argument. It's the principle more than anything here.

    I think this is a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water. There is a lot to be gained by allowing ROTC on campus even with DADT in place. Should we kick off campus all the blood-mobiles that don't allow gays to donate as well? Of course not.

    • your  

      argument doesn't work, seeing as how the union wouldn't be recognized by new york state if it was outlawed. so in order for the couple to receive the benefits for which they are searching, they would have to move to another state.

      i don't really consider uprooting one's entire family to be the same as traveling to the bronx. nice try though.

  30. um, hi

    There's not a snowball's chance in hell that the University Senate will vote to reauthorize on-campus ROTC, no matter what the result of this referendum. Even with some turnover of membership, a body that voted 53-10 against the proposal in 2005 is not going to vote in favor of it in 2008, 2009, or 2020 short of some dramatic change in the geopolitical landscape.

    So, all of this hand-wringing is a bit much.

  31. ROTC advocate

    Advocates for Columbia ROTC statement that addresses Columbia ROTC, DADT and the non-discrimination policy:

    If the non-discrimination policy was truly as narrow-minded as ROTC opponents make it out to be, Columbia couldn't be affiliated with one of America's leading women's colleges. Keep in mind that "military status" is a protected category in Columbia's non-discrimination policy, which means that an ROTC program at Columbia would be protected by the university's non-discrimination policy.

  32. Anonymous

    If the US military is as egalitarian as they claim to be, this would never have been an issue in the first place.

    The truth is that the military is quite political, although I don't think I'd call it liberal or conservative.

    • ROTC advocate

      "The truth is that the military is quite political"

      More accurately, our military is pre-political. Our military is fundamental to the American nation, so fundamental that the American military by necessity even pre-dates the American nation.

      Why is the ROTC cadets and USMC officer candidates group at Columbia called The Hamilton Society? Because the Columbia military heritage finds its roots in the founding of the nation itself.

      Not to have a military program at Columbia is a betrayal of Columbia's purpose to "advance the public good".

  33. simplicity

    The matter is simple, and those of you who deny it either know it or are deluding yourselves. When did those of you who presently oppose the presence of the ROTC on campus ever oppose the invitation of Ahmadinejad, or any other similarly styled dictator or sympathizer of dictators on the basis of his beliefs? What ever happened to all the indignant defense of "intellectual freedom" and the "free exchange of ideas" that we heard last September? Why don't you just reconcile yourselves with the truth and admit that you (the majority of you, that is) do, in fact, believe that certain people are not worthy of a place in the forum we call Columbia University-- but that those people are the representatives of the US military for you and the enemies of the US for us? Honestly, can you begin to compare the harm that is done to gays by the "don't ask don't tell" policy to the harm that is done to them by the theocratic regime in Tehran? And can you claim, with a straight face, (again, the majority of you) that, as pacifists, your greatest point of contention with the military in this country is that they don't allow more people to join? Your arguments are in tatters. Come to terms with it.

    • wrong  

      The Ahmadinejad comparison is idiotic, and I wish politicians/students would shut up about that. Ahmadinejad was brought to campus as a speaker, not to recruit. There is no violation of free speech, because ROTC can still be invited to speak on campus. They however will be treated as any other employer in that they will not be allowed to recruit on campus if their organization excludes a segment of people from employment (on the basis of sexual orientation). Simple.

    • ...  


      Members of the military are not banned from speaking on campus. Students are not banned from speaking about military issues on campus.

      However, the school has chosen not to fund and support on-campus programs that run in direct contradiction with its stated non-discrimination policies.

      Ahmadinejad was invited to speak at an event. He was not allowed to start an on-campus group to promote antisemitism. Nor was he hanging out in the dorms pushing his anti-zionist agenda.

      If the university allowed the formation of the "Antisemite Gun Club" or the "Society for the Persecution of Jews" yet didn't not allow ROTC, you may have a point, but we both know that such an idea is far from the reality on the ground. You're comparing apples and oranges.

      That said, the way that military veterans are discriminated against on the financial aid front (GS) truly is disgusting and you are perfectly welcome to throw stones on that front.

    • um, hi again

      I go back and forth on ROTC myself, but that argument is just weak. Inviting someone with objectionable beliefs to speak is not equivalent to granting resources on a long-term basis or offering course credit. No one's inviting Ahmadinejad to lead a seminar.

      Also, it's no secret a lot of the people railing against reauthorizing ROTC have ulterior motives (as do many of the ones who support it), but that doesn't make DADT a good policy, and it doesn't derail the argument that its implementation ought not to be University-supported.

      I think there are good cases on both sides, but yours isn't one of them.

  34. Censorship  

    I don't understand why there isn't an outcry at any university censoring a club for it's ideology. Let them have the right to be on campus- they aren't going to hurt anyone. Do you also want to vote out all other clubs with policies you don't agree with?

  35. Oh, and also  

    Stop comparing ROTC to a hypothetical "Antisemite Club". ROTC is isn't anti-gay. There's no attack going on- they simply are exercising their right to having membership preferences.

  36. Never, never  

    To let ROTC back on campus would be consenting to the military-industrial complex, a system that preys on the youth. Furthermore, I find the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy to be objectionable.

    I don't think the student population will really let this thing pass. At least, I really hope not.

    • Even  

      Even if the student population or rather the small percentage of students who actually give a shit about what student "leaders" propose let this thing pass, the final word is with the University Senate, right? Please don't tell me that this referenda actually means something.

    • well

      I totally understand the rationale of people who are against ROTC because of DADT... it's a stupid policy which hurts the military and hurts the country and should be gotten rid of. However, the people who are against ROTC because they don't like "military culture" or the "military industrial complex" (i.e., the people who don't want ROTC on campus because they think the military is icky) need to read some history.
      "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." and all that.

  37. ROTC Advocate #2

    I do not agree with or approve of DADT myself. Aside from being wholly discriminatory, it is also an extraordinarily shoddily written and poorly implemented policy. But keep in mind that it is not simply a policy put in placed by the DoD. It is a FEDERAL LAW rooted in 10 USC 654. A law that was passed by congress and signed into law in 1993 by President Clinton. This means that it is not the military's choice, but rather Congress's. For the law to be repealed one should not be protesting against the military but against Congress! With a Democrat majority in both the house and the senate it is unconscionable that neither legislative body has acted to repeal it. Obviously Bush would likely veto any such move, but that shouldn't keep them from trying.

    As to ROTC, I don't believe that the military should be denied a place on campus simply because they are required to follow a law passed by our representatives in the House and Senate. Columbia should be protesting the law not the military.

  38. Reasonable  

    What struck me about this whole situation was the apparent hypocrisy in the crowd's behavior on Thursday night. Basically like this: "We need to make college affordable!"= CHEER, ROTC (making college affordable for many people)= BOO! Now I understand that it's possible to join ROTC on another campus and still receive the financial aid but why make people jump through ridiculous hoops? This is exactly the kind of thing that makes the Columbia community seem like it lives in (sorry about the cliche) an ivory tower.

    Also: Being a freshman, I wasn't aware of the controversy regarding the DADT policy ROTC has. That puts a new spin on things. I agree that the case against DADT is completely just, but silencing the organization erodes the institutions own moral standing.

    That is all. Feel free to tear me apart.

  39. Advocate

    You said "There's no attack going on- they simply are exercising their right to having membership preferences."

    It is not the military exercising a right. It is the military following a law put in place by the Congress. DADT should go the way of the Dinosaur. But it is not up to ROTC or even the DoD. Only Congress can get rid of the law.

    Your ire should be directed towards the folks on Capitol Hill NOT towards ROTC, which is simply doing what is directed of them by YOU, the American people, through YOUR representatives in government.

  40. 12  

    i want to join the military and im not a conservative, im in favor of rotc

  41. just to clear it up

    all military members aren't republicans
    all republicans aren't necessarily conservatives
    the military and service in it does not necessarily make one right wing and in general not a right wing idea

    the main issue here is DADT--i imagine there's a very small minority that opposes rotc on other grounds as well

    • ROTC advocate

      "the main issue here is DADT"

      A striking feature of the Columbia ROTC advocacy is that it seeks to reform DADT ... and that's the key: real reform, not just lodge a protest by practicing segregation.

      What is the way to reform? Segregation, as currently practiced by Columbia, is a poor way to normalize values, while it is a great way to widen gaps in our society. Integration and engagement across institutions, and investment of our graduates, are the realistic and traditional ways for Columbia to close the civil-military gap and make a difference in the military, as Columbia has done with our other relations in larger society, as Columbia once did in the military before 1969.

      Now, is anything we do at Columbia an instant magical solution to any social injustice? No, but as in the other parts of society to which Columbia contributes, real incremental change and movement forward can be built upon, and is far better than adding to the problem or doing nothing at all. Bottom-line: restoring ROTC at Columbia is the way to make a real difference with DADT.

  42. Talking about NROTC

    I would like to point out that this student referendum is specifically about restoring Navy ROTC to Columbia. At present, CU students - as far as I know - have no practical access to Navy ROTC, not even the limited off-campus options available through Air Force and Army programs. SEAS has taken up a specific interest in NROTC, rather than ROTC in general, because the Navy happens to offer tremendous service career options for engineers.

    I also would like to point out the significant consideraion that Navy ROTC has a long and storied history with deep roots at Columbia. Before its removal, Columbia NROTC was one of the most prominent student military programs of any kind in the nation, rivaling even the service academies.

    From ROTC at Columbia, a history:

    "Outside Butler Library, a plaque commemorates the 23,000 Navy midshipmen who trained at Columbia and served in World War II."

    "Columbia University was involved with ROTC in its very beginnings in 1916, forming one of the first Navy ROTC detachments in the nation. ROTC students, known as midshipmen, drilled on College Walk, took part in Naval Science classes, worked and studied on ships and submarines in New York's harbors, and provided community service in Manhattan and the Morningside area. Each year the University held a Military Review during Armed Forces Week to present awards to outstanding midshipmen and to showcase the Corps of Midshipmen to the campus and the city. In the many years of its existence Columbia's NROTC program graduated thousands of students to become officers in the United States Navy. At its high point, Columbia's Corps of Midshipmen rivaled even the Naval Academy itself in size."

  43. liberals are dumb  

    you assholes don't seem to have a problem with blood drives on campus (which actively discriminate against gays) but you have a problem with the military? if DADT is really the issue, you should hate blood drives, too.

    • umm

      Neither the Red Cross nor the New York Blood Center is an arm of the U.S. government, whose FDA set the (obviously outdated and discriminatory) policy you refer to. The military, however, is.

      • FAIL  

        you realize the F in FDA stands for FEDERAL, right?

        Further, you're referring to PRIVATE organizations that still have a backwards and silly policy, and that makes it ok to have on Campus? That doesn't make sense.

        • read this carefully

          First of all, while the FDA is indeed a federal agency, the "F"≠"federal." It is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

          Second, as I clearly stated above, it was this very arm of the U.S. government—not the blood banks—that made it illegal to accept blood donations from men who have had sex with other men. The FDA, a federal agency, set this policy in 1983. The blood banks have no control over it, and it would be a violation of federal law for them to ignore it.

          The U.S. Military, however, is part of the federal government—the very same government who enacted DADT in the first place. They are two organs of the same entity. That doesn't mean there's no argument for bringing back ROTC; it just means that the blood bank analogy doesn't hold up.

          (P.S. - You can damn sure bet the congress would repeal DADT if a majority of the top brass made it clear they wanted it gone.)

          • rmb

            Even more to the point, there's a major difference between not being allowed to donate blood, and losing your educational and career prospects for being gay.

            Just to clarify the history of DADT, pre-DADT military policy barred gays and lesbians from serving. Clinton was elected promising to end this ban by signing an executive order, but under pressure from the military and Republicans in Congress, he signed the present law. The current DADT policy was a "compromise" in which gays and lesbians are not permitted to serve in the military, but no one is supposed to be investigated so long as they stay in the closet.

          • blargh

            Good point -- "repeal" was a little misleading on my part. What I meant was that congress would certainly remove the ban on gays altogether if the top brass made it clear that they wanted it so, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.

          • this

            is a pretty good summary of wikipedia. nice job.

          • Advocate

            That the ROTC is part of the Federal government makes little difference. They are still being required to follow a Federal Law set forth by Congress. FDA = Executive Branch. Congress = Legislative Branch. The Executive Branch can change policies so long as they are within the law. So as long as there is no specific law in place preventing homosexual individuals from donating blood, the FDA and administration in charge could choose to change policy. The same cannot be said of the DoD and ROTC. They cannot change their policy until YOUR elected officials decide to change the law.

          • Blargh

            Well, my congressperson -- for whom I cast a ballot twice -- voted against DADT at the time (as being too restrictive -- not too liberal). So no, I accept no blame in that department.

            And while I grasp the distinction between the executive and legislative branches, thank you, that's a moronic reason not to lodge a lawful protest against a federal law. By that token, you'd never be able to resist any unjust legislation, since the executive branch is responsible for carrying all of it out.

            Congress enjoys broad oversight of the U.S. Military and sets the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If they think it's such a pressing matter to have ROTC on Columbia's campus, it's within their power (along with the president) to change the law.

          • You're An Idiot

            Do you honestly think that the entire US Federal government works as one cohesive body where all branches and departments work with each other?

            In reality quite the opposite is true, so your analogy is just wrong. As pointed out by #78, there are many higher-ups in the military who wish to get rid of DADT, but it's not up to them, it's up to Congress.

            Hell, it should happen tomorrow because both the military and congress are in the Federal Government, right? I mean, they always agree and get each others' backs after all.

  44. ROTC advocate

    A vote for ROTC is a vote for the heroes of our generation.

  45. Advocate

    In other words don't blame the ROTC, blame yourselves for electing representatives to office who are unwilling to defend the rights of gay and lesbian servicemembers.

  46. ROTC Advocate #2

    DADT is not simply a policy that the military decided one day to enact on its own accord. It is, in fact, a federal statute that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993 (10 U.S.C. § 654). As such, ending this policy requires that a decision be made not by the President or Secretary of Defense but rather that the law be repealed by our representatives in the U.S. House and Senate. Now, granted at the time of the law's enactment there was broad support for it among the military leadership that was then in place, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. While many among the military still support the policy, there is increasing support for its repeal within the ranks (I point to the recent hearing congress held on the matter , at which prominent military service members testified in opposition to the policy).

  47. simplicity  

    Those of you who are protesting the ROTC are allegedly, if we are to believe you, protesting the denial to gays of the right to have themselves potentially blown up by an IED in Samarra, Basra, or Kandahar. Does that denial of "civil rights" really bother you so much? Face facts and admit your real motives.

    • blargh

      Umm... if that's all you think the military entails (though clearly you'd be wrong), why the hell would you want ROTC on campus in the first place? Don't advocates of ROTC regularly extol the value of military training (with due reason in many cases)? Why should the opportunity to take advantage of those benefits be denied to a particular class of people?

  48. blah  

    fuck tha rotc.

    also, fuck tha po-lice.

  49. Advocate

    obviously Congress doesn't think it is a pressing matter, that is why we continually raise the issue. But then again apparently neither does Columbia - the university only appears to confront the issue when the matter of ROTC comes Columbias ROTC Advocates on the other hand regularly engage policy makers on the issue. We want to get rid of DADT. It hurts our soldiers and our military readiness. But our military should not be punished and rejected by the Columbia community it protects and serves because ROTC is required to follow a bad law.

    • blargh

      Columbia has made its institutional stance on DADT clear on numerous occasions, and while I don't know the specifics of the university's lobbying practices, I'd bet its opposition to that policy comes up in discussions with legislators (just as it did when Columbia filed an amicus brief during the Supreme Court hearing on the Solomon Amendment). Unfortunately, that law is set by a much more powerful and stubborn institution, and there's very little that Columbia (or any other university) can do from a lobbying perspective to change it.

      One of the few things it CAN do as a means of protest is to resist the presence of ROTC on its own campus, which it has. If the federal government decides that the dearth of Ivy League soldiers and sailors is a grave crisis, it has the ability to change the law. But if it chooses not to, congress (which, I reiterate, is charged with preserving the well-being of the military) made its own bigoted bed. Columbia's enforcement of its own rules and statutes is not the source of U.S. Military's problems.

      (Note that congress has, in fact, elected to address this problem by force of law in the past. It's only by virtue of the Solomon Amendment that military recruiters are allowed to operate in the law school. The issue of on-campus ROTC hasn't attracted the same level of interest or enforcement, which should tell you something about how seriously the federal government regards this problem.)

      • Advocate

        What I find troubling is that Columbia and the anti-ROTC folks don't feel any sense of responsibility. This is YOUR military. OUR military. They protect and defend US. I don't believe Columbia should be forced to host ROTC. But it should feel OBLIGATED to host ROTC, to play its part in ensuring that our soldiers wherever they are serving have the best educated officers available to lead them.

        I agree, DADT is absolutely abominable. Should be scrapped completely. Colin Powell should be reprimanded for supporting it.

        But Columbia also has an mission to serve the public good. Its printed right there above Low Library. Right now there are soldiers sailors marines and airmen deployed all over the world. Don't they deserve to have leaders like those that Columbia produces?

        We have to take OWNERSHIP of our military. This is OUR military. Not the conservatives' military, not the bigots' military. OURS. We should want people from OUR community to be represented in the military.

        And that brings me back to Senator Obama's point about supporting ROTC. He said "it's also important that a president speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some, but of many."

        Military service should not be the burden of only a bunch of state school graduates. While it may not be Columbia's intent to create a de facto class separation where only the less well off serve, that is how it appears to many. And appearance speaks louder than words.

        Columbia should seek out and actively engage the military. This includes OPPOSITION TO DADT. At the very least, in opposing DADT Columbia should loudly and publicly lament that the policy is preventing its students from having an accessible opportunity to serve as military officers (particularly in the Navy which is available to no one at Columbia). This should be a PROBLEM for Columbia.

        I want to see Columbia actively engage Congress. Tell them "we want ROTC, our students want to serve, but your discriminatory law is making that all but impossible for us!" I have not heard such an utterance once.

        Columbia needs to regain its sense of civic duty. This is our military. And we want change.

        • blargh

          You make very good points. I think that line -- "we want ROTC, our students want to serve, but your discriminatory law is making that all but impossible for us!" -- is exactly the attitude Columbia should take.

  50. Advocate

    And that is the tactic that I wish Columbia would take. The passive rejection ROTC out of a principled opposition to DADT has done little to nothing to advance the cause. As one publication noted:

    "By banning ROTC and implying disrespect for the military, Columbia has encouraged political mudslinging about elite anti-Americanism — not vigorous debate about DADT. “Universities are vital when they educate and irrelevant when they boycott,” Columbia astronomy professor James Applegate explained in 2005."

    What I have long wanted is for Columbia to aggressively engage the powers that be on the issue. Columbia should go to Congress directly and point out that not only is DADT discriminatory, not only does it hurt military readiness through the regular expulsion of qualified professionals, but it also prevents many high quality schools like Columbia from providing high quality Officers to lead the military.
    I would have a great deal of respect for Columbia if it did this, because not only would it demonstrate Columbia's commitment to service and to civic duty but it would also affirm its dedication to ending discrimination. Its easy to oppose a policy when you've got nothing to lose. Its far more difficult to do so in the face of opposition and possible censure - but far more respectable as well.

    • blargh

      One thing I would emphasize -- and I don't know that we disagree on this point -- is that DADT is not a trivial matter, as some ROTC advocates would have us believe.

      Yes, Columbia should absolutely use its status to engage with the military and aggressively advocate for a policy change (even if it's unlikely they'll be able to reshape the debate alone), but until that change comes, I think the university's decision to deny ROTC access is a fair one.

      I don't think it would right -- or strategically wise, even -- for the Columbia to gloss over what we agree to be an awful, discriminatory policy, even for the sake of improving its relationship with the military. The ban strikes me as the single most powerful statement Columbia can make with respect to DADT. Hopefully it's one that congress will eventually hear.

  51. Not a protest  

    Personally, I like and respect the ROTC program. I know a lot of people who've benefited from it at other schools.

    The problem with DADT as I see it is not one of the university 'protesting' against the policy. It's much simpler: no student group on campus is allowed to reject people because of their sexual orientation.

    So ignoring all the left-wing bullshit, the problem is one of gay rights. Even if everyone on campus supported having a military presence here, which they should for all the reasons already articulated, the problem is that you can't have a group that discriminates.

    Imagine if the Blue & White did not allow gay people to join its membership, for example. For the university to respond by banning the Blue & White until gay people were allowed to join is in accordance with the anti-discrimination policy. Everyone may think the Blue & White is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if ALL people are not allowed to join (or given the same consideration in applying), then the group has no business being on campus.

    Explain to me why ROTC should be any different in this respect?

  52. Advocate

    My own viewpoint - one with which many will disagree I suspect - is that ROTC is simply too important to neglect. We should regularly and continuously fight against discrimination in all of its forms. But some measures I believe do more harm than good. The ban on ROTC is one of them.

    The military, our Army and Marine Corps in particular, is in dire need of quality officers. Officers who are able to operate in very complex multilateral environments and make surprisingly difficult decisions of national importance at a very young age. This is what we are faced with today. I am not claiming we should support the decisions of the present administration by any means either. But when the next administration comes to the fore in January we are going to have a great deal to clean up, and a great deal more challenges to meet. Like it or not, the military is the only deployable organization capable of meeting many of them. And so I believe it is absolutely CRITICAL to have as many talented, excogitative, and globally well versed young officers serving. We will need them to rebuild our nearly broken Army and Marine Corps. And I believe schools like Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale represent pools of some of the best candidates to meet this challenge.

    So to get back to the question, why is ROTC different? Because it is not simply a student group. We depend upon the success of ROTC to fill our military's leadership positions. And we need officers who are the best of the best.

    From my perspective, where I sit right now, ROTC is simply too important, the integrity and viability of the military is too important, and at the end of the day the soldiers and marines deserve to have the best of the best to lead them. That is really what it comes down to for me. I've seen what failed leadership can do firsthand. And I want to see less of it. I wish every officer in the military could have the kind of education that Columbia provides, but I would settle for a few more.

    Thats where I am coming from, and that is where most of the ROTC Advocates that I know are coming from. Most of us are very much in opposition to DADT. Not all to be sure, but most of the folks that I personally interact with are. And as we have learned more about it since our campaign began we have grown more and more opposed to DADT. And oh by the way less than a third of our group considers ourselves to be in any way Republican or right of center. So despite what many claim this is not a "right wing movement." We continue to call for an end to DADT. Because it is discriminatory, it is wrong, and lets face it it would make our efforts far less difficult if it didn't exist. We are trying to work within our means to solve a very difficult problem, but one that we see as a VERY CRITICAL PROBLEM.

    I hope that DADT is repealed. I hope that very soon my gay friends will have the opportunity to serve, and those friends that presently do serve will no longer have to live in fear.

    But I will also continue to fight for ROTC and its place on this campus and others. We owe it to our soldiers. We owe it to our country.

    • Interesting  

      You make a very compelling political argument, but my concern is more workaday. Despite it's undeniable importance to the US as a whole, ROTC on campus is highly problematic. How does Columbia go about supporting the inevitable gay students who want to join the group, were it on campus?

      I think the university should do more to encourage students to enlist, but bringing ROTC on campus and contravening very important anti-discrimination rules in the process is not the only way.

  53. ROTC advocate

    Reminder: Military status is also protected by Columbia's non-discrimination policy. One can argue that Columbia's present policy on ROTC contravenes the non-discrimination policy.

    The only true DADT reformers at Columbia are ROTC advocates.

    The fact is, our exclusionary and segregationist policy on ROTC invalidates our voice in the DADT debate because Columbia's blatantly anti-military history since 1969 fatally undermines the legitimacy of our place in the DADT discussion.

    Analogy: If you're known as a racist, with the history and your present actions showing you to be a racist, would anyone take you seriously in a discussion about positive solutions for race issues?

    The answer is that you first have to *prove* you are no longer a racist, that you have a real interest in the mutual betterment of the concerned parties. For Columbia, the way to restore our voice in the DADT discussion is to restore ROTC.

    Columbia must prove we are no longer anti-military in order for us to be taken seriously in any serious discourse about DADT.

    On campus, ROTC at Columbia wouldn't hurt LGBT students anymore than Barnard hurts Columbia's male students or our religious groups hurt non-religious or differently religious students.

    Here are two statements I wrote as an ROTC advocate about ROTC, DADT and the university's non-discrimination policy.

    2005 Advocates for Columbia ROTC statement on ROTC at Columbia and DADT:

    My 2005 letter to the university senate's ROTC task force:

    • Advocate

      while I disagree somewhat with the analogy between ROTC and Barnard- clearly some are hurt by even the possibilty of being confronted with the DADT policy on their campus - it is also true that the ROTC Advocates are the only Columbia affiliates who have engaged the campus on the issue or actively and regularly advocated for its repeal. Multiple efforts have been made in the past to engage and partner with campus LGBT groups on the issue, including two invitations to join us at anti DADT rallies hosted by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, but to no avail.

      • ROTC advocate

        DADT bothers me, too, which is one of the reasons I want ROTC here - so Columbia can do something about it in a realistic, constructive manner.

        Moreover, I believe the non-discrimination policy is meant to foster inclusion and engagement, even when it entails some friction, in order for students and Columbia as institution to make a difference for the public good.

        We should oppose discrimination and support ROTC. Columbia will not be the only university with a robust non-discrimination policy and ROTC - in fact, President Bollinger oversaw such a configuration when he was president of U.Michigan.

        I'm biased, but I believe Columbia can make an exceptional difference on this issue, but if and only if Columbia engages ROTC in an inclusive, mutual, constructive manner.

    • ack

      "Reminder: Military status is also protected by Columbia's non-discrimination policy. One can argue that Columbia's present policy on ROTC contravenes the non-discrimination policy."

      The argument that the ROTC ban is morally equivalent to DADT doesn't pass the laugh test. No former, current, or future member of the military is denied the right to walk onto campus, enroll in classes, speak his/her mind, or any of the other rights and privileges enjoyed at Columbia. The one thing they presently can't do -- just like the rest of us -- is operate an organization that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of University policy. Would it be discriminatory against whites for Columbia deny the KKK the right to operate campus on the basis of their discriminatory membership policies? (Before anyone flips out, I DO NOT equate these two organizations -- I cite the example only as a proof by absurdity.) So yeah, there are plenty of good reasons to have ROTC around, but that's a truly stupid argument.

      "Analogy: If you're known as a racist, with the history and your present actions showing you to be a racist, would anyone take you seriously in a discussion about positive solutions for race issues?"

      Actually, if an formerly avowed racist showed a genuine openness to improving race relations, I'd be pleased -- but that's a pretty inept analogy to begin with for Columbia's relationship with the military. It may be politically antagonistic, but Columbia does loads of dual-use research used by military contractors; SIPA offers at least eight courses on military strategy, history, and readiness (that I could find); military recruiters regularly come to on-campus job fairs; and according to ROTC advocates, a nontrivial number of Columbia students have served or will go on to serve in the military. That fact many students and faculty are averse to the military (often for irrational reasons), or that Columbia has taken a stand against ROTC's discriminatory admissions policy, does not mean that the University as a whole has nothing to offer in military debates.

      "On campus, ROTC at Columbia wouldn't hurt LGBT students anymore than Barnard hurts Columbia's male students or our religious groups hurt non-religious or differently religious students."

      Another inept comparison. Single-sex education is a longstanding practice of private institutions with well-established sociological benefits (akin to gendered bathrooms) and a load of alternatives for those who chose not to participate in it. When it comes to Barnard (an independently incorporated college), that distinction is even thinner, given that Columbia students have access to its campus, its library, its dining hall, and the vast majority of its course catalog. DADT, meanwhile, is a government ban on open homosexuals working in the U.S. military, which -- last I checked -- is the only such game in town. (I note that the military also maintains a ban on putting women into active combat duty, even if the distinction is becoming increasingly blurry.)

      As for religious groups on campus: they are not allowed to exclude people on the basis of their spiritual affiliation -- if an evangelical Christian wishes to join the MSA, he is free to do so. DADT means that a particular subset of the community is not entitled to the privileges based solely on their sexual behaviors and preferences.

      • ROTC advocate


        On the 1st point, I am simply pointing out that military status is protected alongside sexual orientation status, and other protected statuses, by the same university policy. What responsibility does that place on Columbia for military students? Currently, Air Force and Army ROTC cadets are forced to go away from Columbia in order to be military. The reduced number of cadets at Columbia since 1969 have proven able to suck it up and soldier on. But does the admirable way an exceptional few have dealt with an unjust circumstance, as oustanding members of other groups have soldiered through unjust circumstances, absolve Columbia of her responsibility to her present and future military students? The argument can be made - that's all I'm saying.

        Keep in mind also that, at present, NROTC isn't practically available even as a limited off-campus option, despite NROTC's deeply rooted history at Columbia and ideal service career fit for SEAS students in particular.

        On the 2nd point, I agree there is much Columbia can offer the military. Columbia ROTC advocates not only defend the military to the Columbia community; we also defend Columbia to the military community. We must, given the history. There's a reason smart people like Senators Obama and McCain, and other Columbia ROTC advocates, emphasize the ROTC-Columbia relationship. From inception, ROTC has been the organic bridge linking our military and civilian society at the most fundamental civic-academic level: the civilian source of the military's leaders and - when the relationship works, as we hope it will at Columbia - mutually beneficial interactive engagement with the military throughout the academic community.

        You're right that individual military Columbians have tried to compensate for the shortcomings of the institution, but ROTC remains the foundation. ROTC matters. And it matters that Columbia rights the grievous wrong it committed in 1969 to what was one of the most storied ROTC programs in the country. Columbia inflicted the wound and it's up to Columbia to start the healing.

        On the 3rd point, well, ROTC is a longstanding practice of academic institutions with well-established societal (and sociological) benefits; Columbia used to have it, too. I'm for the integration of a women's college at Columbia - my mom would be highly displeased with me if I wasn't - even though I wasn't allowed to apply to Barnard. Although I'm not religious and have been alienated by them at times, I also believe religions should be included at Columbia. Why? Because our university cannot only look inward. We have a societal obligation. As a flagship academic institution with a vision and mission that reaches beyond our gates, our university requires a heterogenous community within our gates. Given the fundamental civil-military role of ROTC and the importance of the American military not only to our nation, but the world, the exclusion of ROTC at Columbia is a striking contradiction to our university's greater purpose.

        Columbia as leader requires inclusiveness and engagement on campus, which will, at times, entail friction. We have a non-discrimination policy, not to promote exclusion and segregation, but in order to foster inclusiveness and engagement while protecting our students from the friction that may result.

        I don't support DADT. I believe it's bad policy that wrongly pits sexual orientation against civic values that should embrace our entire citizenry, such as selfless service and duty. But to exclude ROTC at Columbia over DADT only exacerbates the problem by further harming the civic values embodied by military leadership.

        So, how do we weigh the cost/benefit of our decision? As much as we share dislike of DADT, ROTC at Columbia won't harm LGBT students in real terms anymore than a women's college and religious groups at Columbia harm non-religious male students, even if they own policies or canon law that are alienating.

        Columbia won't be the 1st university with ROTC and a robust non-discrimination policy. ROTC won't invalidate nor undermine our non-discrimination policy. Columbia won't even be the first university that President Bollinger leads with ROTC and a non-discrimination policy.

        That said, we shouldn't overlook DADT, either. The reasons for restoring ROTC include that Columbia can do more to aid reform of DADT in a mutual, constructive manner with ROTC than without it.

  54. Advocate

    I too place a high importance on ROTC's return, as indicated by my previous posts. And I don't believe that ROTC should be excluded because it is required to follow a discriminatory law enacted by Congress.

    But I join with those against it in protesting DADT. For those of you who are so fervently against ROTC because of DADT I ask of you this:

    Do not simply reject ROTC because of this flawed law. Our opinions differ on whether ROTC should be allowed on campus with the policy in place, but what I hope we can agree on is that ROTC deserves a place on campus in some form. I ask you to join us in calling upon the Congress to end this exclusionary law not only because it is discriminatory and wrong, not only because it hurts our military readiness, but because it prohibits many students at our school - members of the LGBT community in particular - from participating in ROTC and inhibits our school from welcoming an otherwise noble institution onto its campus.




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