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ROTC Referendum No Longer A Referendum; EAAH Denied Entry

The student councils and a newly-expanded list student groups met last night in the SGO to continue their discussions of the NROTC referendum. Despite the now-public nature of their plans, the meetings remained closed to the press with notes being sent to campus media organizations.

The meetings are still focused on the process behind the referendum, rather than the debate itself. Most importantly, the vote will no longer be a referendum, but a “survey,” a less formal version with the same procedures. Among other effects, Bwog notes that the vote can now go forward without waiting for the results of the “referenda committee” that was presented at both the CCSC and ESC board meetings this past week.

As for scheduling before the vote, there are currently plans for “information sessions” about the history of NROTC and Columbia, and two town halls, one at Columbia and one at Barnard, with panel discussions followed by an open floor.

However, other details about the exact date(s) of the survey and number of answers remain unresolved. More, including GS’s absence and EAAH’s rebuffed attempt to enter, after the jump.

UPDATE (1:20 AM): The media notes themselves are now posted after the jump.

No GS representatives attended the meeting (though there were representatives from Barnard), but other student officials say GS was invited, and will remain part of the process. The councils have committed to remaining neutral until the survey is conducted.

Finally, a small dispute broke out last night when Everyone Allied Against Homophobia tried to attend the meeting. According to EAAH co-president Ira Stup, his co-president Ryan Kasdin attempted to attend the meeting. Because the group had not been invited, he was asked to leave by several representatives in the room. The presidents distributed a statement  to each representative at the end of the meeting, calling it “completely unacceptable that the self-selected student groups organizing tonight’s meeting arbitrarily picked one out of the seven campus LGBT groups as the representative voice of a crucial constituency in this critically important discussion…LGBT voices at Columbia cannot be represented by a single campus group.” EAAH demanded that “all further meetings and conversations surrounding ROTC on our campus be completely and utterly transparent.”

Student Body NROTC Survey Planning Meeting

September 17, 2008 


Emily Kenison – Barnard Senator

Monica Quaintance – CC Senator

Rajat Roy – ESC Senator

Rishika Samant – CC Senator

George Krebs – CCSC President

Adil Ahmed – CCSC VP Policy

Peter Valerias – ESC President

Prishantha Dunstan – ESC VP Policy

Sarah Besnoff – SGA President

Activities Board at Columbia (ABC)

Asian American Alliance (AAA)

Black Students Organization (BSO)

College Democrats

Columbia Political Union (CPU)

Columbia Queer Alliance (CQA)

Columbia University College Republicans (CUCR)

Hamilton Society

Student Governing Board (SGB)

Student Organization of Latinos (SOL)

United Students of Color Caucus (USCC) 


The purpose of this meeting was to bring all the attendees to the same page with regard to the recent discussion of NROTC (Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps) and Columbia University.  The attendees were selected to provide a group that represents as much of campus as possible while maintaining a small meeting size to facilitate planning.  The end goal was to provide for a survey mechanism to gauge undergraduate sentiment on NROTC/CU but also to provide for education on the topic, its history and its implications for the Columbia community.   

Personal opinions on NROTC and Columbia were not discussed at the meeting; the focus was on how to best educate campus and how to lay the framework for a greater discussion in which all undergraduates and undergraduate student groups can participate.   

It is important to distinguish that the discussion focused on NROTC, not parallel programs through the Air Force (for which a program exists at Manhattan College) or the Army (for which a program exists at Fordham University). 

Referendum vs. Survey: 

Contrary to what had elsewhere been suggested, the discussion centered around the possibility of providing for a survey of the undergraduate student body, not a binding referendum.  There is currently no provision for a universal referendum in either the rules of the Senate or the Councils.  A survey is therefore useful to provide a general sense of student opinion without the difficulty of creating a procedure for a binding referendum.   

The University Senators for the undergraduate schools cannot be bound by the results of a survey, though they stated that they will pledge to represent the results of the survey in the Senate, which would then make recommendations to the Trustees of the University, the body which would be ultimately responsible for making policy on NROTC.   

General Scope 

There was consensus on the need to have informational programming prior to the eventual survey date.  Discussion focused on how to best program and how to ensure that as broad a spectrum of opinions were presented in the campus-wide discussion as possible.  It was decided that the University Senators would provide an unbiased history of NROTC and Columbia in “information sessions.”  These would be followed by a pair of “town halls,” one on the Columbia campus and one on the Barnard campus, which would feature a panel debate/discussion followed by a general open floor for the audience.   

The Councils have pledged not to make policy statements on NROTC until a survey is conducted. 

Survey Logistics: 

Specific questions as to (1) the wording of any potential survey question, (2) the timing and format of the information sessions and town halls, (3) the date of the survey and (4) the use of the survey results were tabled for the next discussion.

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  • I thought says:

    @I thought the socialists were the only group on campus that could speak for everyone here in one voice?

  • i don't quite says:

    @i don't quite understand the whole eeah thing. Explain why they were kicked out please?

  • because says:

    @because the councils arbitrarily decided who should be included and excluded at the table.

  • who says:

    @who are the council members involved in this? Have the student senators taken positions on either the ROTC or the student survey/ referenda? The CCSC and ESC need to explain themselves they have been wholly non-transparent and incompetent during this entire process. I demand more info!

  • not an insider... says:

    @not an insider... but I do know a few of the insiders involved…….

    basically there is a particular senator from SEAS who is leading this whole operation and that fellow is NOT impartial and has VERY strong agenda he is trying to push onto the rest of this campus……

    1. hmmm says:

      @hmmm I find it odd that you say “this campus” when you are not on this campus to begin with. The lack of a crown by your name gives you away, honey ;-)

  • oh... says:

    @oh... and my last comment was in response to the question in #4

  • they says:

    @they were kicked out in 69 because of vietnam. the reason now is because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

  • also says:

    @also the dems just released a statement

  • They says:

    @They should have kicked the whiney bitch queen in the head on his way out the door. I mean seriously there are all kinds of exclusionary groups on campus like the BSO or LionPAC. There are plenty of gays and lesbians in the armed forces. Something tells me that ‘ole Ry Kasdin wouldn’t be joining the NROTC anyway so how does it affect his life? There are plenty of groups that would exclude me as a white gentile such as those I have already listed. Not to mention the fact that we allow religious groups on campus that condemn homosexuality to the fires of hell and eternal damnation. But oh no if we tried to kick Protestant groups off of campus we’d have enraged Koreans flooding the quad. If we tried to kick the St. Paul’s Catholic contingent off campus we’d have the 5 Catholics on campus threatening IRA style car bombings. And if we kicked the Muslim groups off we’d have a protest that would quickly turn into a fight between the militant Jews and the arabs over Palestine. At least the Navy knowingly accepts it and looks the other way.

    1. bwog says:

      @bwog delete this screed. ugh.

    2. BSO says:

      @BSO We’re most certainly not exclusionary, but if you ever felt that way after attending one of our meetings/events we would hope that you wouldn’t judge the organization based on ignorance, misconceptions, or isolated incidences.

      1. i think says:

        @i think secret meetings, especially those that would change significant policy are a very dangerous thing.

        and the bso totally isn’t exclusionary. i am a white guy and have been on the listserv for years. its not like they are plotting some devious plots. everything is out in the open and anyone is welcome to see what’s going on.

        but unilaterally having a meeting excluding certain parties it utter nonsense. i would hope that, if anything, it leads to some amendment that prohibits restricted meetings for student council types in the future (except those that involve discussions with the administration.)

  • jds says:

    @jds No need to get personal. Ryan’s a great guy, very respectable.

  • Question says:

    @Question Do any of these people have a formal authority to hold secret meetings that could affect campus policies?

    1. What? says:

      @What? “Formal Authority to hold secret meetings”? They are allowed to meet whenever they want and they don’t have to tell you all about it. That’s pretty much it.

  • President Obama says:

    @President Obama President Obama says, Columbia better figure out how to restore ROTC on your campus, or I’ll figure it out for you.

    … okay, not really, but Obama did say this:

    From January 1, 2008 Democratic candidates’ debate in Las Vegas, Nevada: “RUSSERT: Senator Obama, same question. Will you vigorously enforce a statute which says colleges must allow military recruiters on campus and provide ROTC programs?

    OBAMA: Yes.”

    In fairness to the EAAH reps, MilVets and MIBA reps – ie, the Columbia students with actual 1st hand military and/or ROTC backgrounds – weren’t invited to the meetings either.

  • ... says:

    @... i think they should float a survey to determine if they should float a survey or a referendum.

  • #10, that was lame. says:

    @#10, that was lame. First of all, just because there are student groups designed to promote the interests of certain populations doesn’t make them discriminatory against other populations.
    Second, the Catholic Church argument may seem like a strong one to someone who isn’t that smart–“the church doesn’t let women be priests–they’re discriminatory. Why aren’t you protesting THEM?” This is entirely moot. If you find the Church discriminatory, go ahead and protest. You might encounter resistance, sure, but that doesn’t mean that therefore ROTC should be allowed back on campus. You’re claiming that the supposed violation of a principle (the non-discrimination clause) in some cases justifies the continued violation of the principle in a specific case. Anyone who thinks about it for two seconds can see that this is illogical–it’s the logical equivalent of saying “those guys got away with murder, so I’m perfectly justified in murdering my enemies, too.”
    This argument is continually used by people who don’t care at all about whether the university discriminates or not, but they don’t have another leg to stand on, so they resort to (not very nuanced) logical tricks. so dumb. have some integrity.

    1. ROTC advocate says:

      @ROTC advocate First: “Military status”, like religion, is a protected category in Columbia’s non-discrimination policy. It can be argued that excluding ROTC and forcing Columbia’s ROTC cadets to go away from the university to be military is discriminatory. Of course, Columbia students lack even fringe access to NROTC, which is an injustice.

      Second: the analogy of ROTC to religions at Columbia may seem illogical because your understanding of the argument is incomplete. It’s alarming that ROTC opponents seek to use the non-discrimination policy as a tool of exclusion, when it is intended to be a tool of inclusion. Columbia already chooses to include entities, such as a women’s college and religions, that can be accused of discrimination, in order to maintain the diversity and heterogeneity of the university community and the relevant reach of Columbia to our society. Columbia serves its purpose when the university fosters education, inclusion, and engagement. Columbia fails when we boycott and exclude.

      You do well to point out the dangerous truth of the opposition to ROTC at Columbia. The argument against ROTC at Columbia is a reductive vision of Columbia that supports the exclusion of Barnard, religions, and other groups from Columbia. Whereas, the argument for ROTC at Columbia supports the inclusion of a women’s college, religions, and other groups at Columbia.

      Bottom-line: A vote for ROTC at Columbia is a vote for our non-discrimination policy as a tool of inclusion and engagement; a vote against ROTC at Columbia is a vote for our non-discrimination policy as a tool of exclusion.

  • GSer says:

    @GSer Wait… I missed something… Why no GS representation? Did the President get impeached again? Not yet? Soon?

    1. GSer-too says:

      @GSer-too No, not impeached yet. He is too busy strutting around the campus reminding people of how important he is. Poor guy — guess that’s what happens when someone needs to get a life.

    2. ROTC advocate says:

      @ROTC advocate GS absence is relevant because the majority of Columbia students with military backgrounds attend GS.

  • Can someone says:

    @Can someone explain to me why the GS president wasn’t there? It kinda seems like it would be important for his people.

  • that there says:

    @that there is a big pile of crap.

    What did the notes tell us that we don’t already know? So much for transparency.

    This is the one time that I would have preferred the real thing, as opposed to the sparknotes version.

  • GSer-three says:

    @GSer-three I would say that GS participation is the most important given their particular demographic. If the GSSC President wasn’t so concerned about building his power-base and appeasing every pressure group on campus, maybe he would actually take a stand on something and get off his pedestal. Think he can be impeached for this one? That would make two out of two. But then again, let’s face it, GSSC is pretty irrelevant on campus thanks to clowns like him. Too bad. (Oh and I hear someone from their Executive Board has already jumped ship and September isn’t even over!)

    1. ...-one says:

      @...-one wait! i missed something… why is the broccoli so damn big at the pasta bar in lerner?

      1. ...-two says:

        @...-two i know! it’s fuckin huge. it’s an outrage! an outrage i say! those fuckers in housing and dining are too busy strutting around the campus going on about how busy they are, they can’t be that busy if they’re cutting corners on the broccoli. for shame!

        1. ...-three says:

          @...-three well technically, they aren’t cutting corners on the broccoli. it’s huge, remember. if they were cutting corners, then it wouldn’t huge.

          but i must agree, this is grounds for impeachment! impeachment of the pasta station attendant! this injustice will not stand! my blood boils at the thought of it, so much so that i speak to myself in imaginary three way dialogs on the internet!

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