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Anti-NROTC Groups Raise Their “Voices”

Bwog Daily Editor James Downie reports from tonight’s anti-NROTC panel.

Apologies to those commenters who requested a liveblog — I felt this was one issue where I might want to make especially sure my notes were accurate. Regardless, those who did not join the 50 or so students in Lerner Cinema earlier tonight did not miss huge amounts of drama.

The event itself was in fact a relatively cordial affair, though by the end of the two hours audience members had clearly begun to chafe at having to stay silent during the Q&A. The panel was introduced by Aditya Mukerjee (CC ’12) of the Dems and Ryan Kasdin (CC ’09) of EAAH: Professor David Eisenbach, Ph.D. candidate Manuel Schwab, and Washington Heights activist Claudia de la Cruz. All were against the return of NROTC to campus – the panel, to quote its organizers, was designed as “con panel,” meant to present a larger number of negative effects if  NROTC were to return to campus.  The event certainly suceeded in widening the field of criticism – while Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was part of the conversation, the event often focused on accusations of sexism, classism, and racism in the military.

Eisenbach went first, and was the only panelist to make DADT his central argument against NROTC. While not directly challenging the argument that NROTC departed campus because of the Vietnam War, he sought to provide some historical background to show that the gay struggle against discrimination in the military was just as old. He cited Stephen Donaldson, founder of what is now the CQA, who spoke out while at Columbia against the military’s discrimination policy (before testing it directly by joining the Navy).

The second speaker was Manuel Schwab, a 4th year Ph.D. candidate who attacked the military on several levels, including class, geographic, and race discrimination. He cited the low numbers of minority officers in the military, as well as the overwhelming attention on lower-class and minority students (although, with respect to race, the America military is in fact more white than the country as a whole).

The final speaker, Claudia de la Cruz, used her experience with Da Urban Butterflies and the Dominican Women’s Youth Development Center to criticize of the military’s focus on poor neighborhoods, especially in her home of Washington Heights. But she was harshest in declaring the military a “sexist” institution: “To truly understand the military, we need to look at how militaries use women as bait.”

The Q&A remained calm, though at times contentious. The first question was about what other things Columbia has done to oppose DADT. Eisenbach admitted that he could not think of any, but that Columbia “should be doing stuff to oppose it.”

The second question came from a female Army ROTC member, who took issue with De la Cruz’s description of a “sexist” military. The ROTC member described her time in the military as empowering. De la Cruz responded that she had encountered many stories of sexism in her work with Latina veterans, and suggested that the questioner hadn’t found sexism because she was white.

Another question came from a student concerned about the cultural effects on Columbia as a “safe space” for homosexuals. Eisenbach agreed that “it would be a problem,” and said that Bill O’Reilly would use this as a way to ridicule Columbia’s professors. Unfortunately, he didn’t offer any specific examples on the campus itself.

The last question asked whether the military was doing anything to oppose DADT, since it is a federal, not military policy. Eisenbach said that the military in fact was now 60-70% againt DADT, including senior officers like former chairmen of the Joint Chief John Shalikashvili. He said “now it is up to the politicans to end it,” and expressed hope that Barack Obama would do so with the even more Democratic congress. The evening came to a close, with no one persuaded, but maybe some a little more enlightened.

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  • what professor says:

    @what professor has great omniscient powers?

    Eisenbach of his head!

  • BE THE CHANGE says:

    @BE THE CHANGE The state which separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.

    1. congrats says:

      @congrats on being a Propaganda machine.

      btdubs, it takes courage to pursue an education, and wisdom to defend your country.

    2. yeah...but says:

      @yeah...but when the scholars are dead in another country, only the fools will remain to rule ours.

  • WHAT says:

    @WHAT women as BAIT?

  • liberals says:

    @liberals So these liberal geniuses are basically saying that the military is too white, but its effort to recruit minorities is racist. shouldn’t that be considered something like affirmative action? If a college seeks to diversify itself it is a glorious thing, but if the military does it’s racist. The professor’s reply that the cadet cannot be subject to sexism because she is white is hilarious.

    1. I was there says:

      @I was there I believe Claudia’s response wasn’t that the cadet hadn’t experienced sexism because she was white, but rather that there were multiple levels at which one can be subject to oppression and that perhaps she felt embraced because of her white identity whereas a woman of color would have to deal with both ethnicity/race and gender

  • CU Dem says:

    @CU Dem I am a member of CU Dems, who co-sponsored this event, but I was very disappointed in the quality of the speakers. Except for Prof. Eisenbach, they were painfully uninformed. There was one question directed to Ms. De la Cruz about what roles women are restricted from in the military. She has no idea.

    There is a great video op-ed on the times website today about women in combat.
    Woman in combat seems to be a similar issue to don’t ask don’t tell. The reality in the military has already changed (i.e.: gays are serving openly and women are in combat), but the old-fashioned power structure hasn’t changed the rules yet.

  • Yay! says:

    @Yay! For institutionally advocated racism! Your opinion on the matter is null and void because you are white…

    p.s. are homosexuals worried about the Catholics holding an office an Earl? Are they threatened?

  • Ridiculous says:

    @Ridiculous Putting up speakers who have no idea what they’re talking about is typical Columbia “intellectualism”. Manuel Schwab is flat-out WRONG about minority officers in the military, and even more so in ROTC. This study ( shows that blacks, hispanics, and American Indians are actually slightly overrepresented in ROTC commissions, while Asians are underrepresented. The percentage of whites commissioning is roughly proportional to the overall population. It’s true that officers tend to come from more affluent backgrounds largely because a commission requires a college degree, and household income is strongly correlated with likelihood of having a college diploma. But the military is also an egalitarian force in that it gives many people who otherwise couldn’t attend college the opportunity to do so via the GI Bill and intra-service commissioning programs.

    I have no idea what using women as “bait” means, but while women are still technically barred from holding frontline MOSs (basically, infantry and tanks), they fly jets, and in a tactical environment in which there are no front lines, often do serve, and serve admirably, in combat. The restrictions on MOS have to do with physical strength more than anything else, and it’s likely they’ll be relaxed over time as indicated above.

    The general opposition to the military in this forum seems based on an outdated perception of its culture. But I think we’re seeing the real anti-military sentiment starting to build, as opposed to the purely legal anti-DADT stance taken thus far.

  • have to wonder says:

    @have to wonder would the sponsoring groups prefer we didn’t have a military?

  • yes says:

    @yes In response to the comment above me, yes, at least Claudia de la Cruz said that she would prefer we didn’t have military. I went up at the end and asked her what we a more democratic/non-hierarchical military look like, and she that she didn’t know because she is opposed to the military in general. I kind of understand where she is coming from, but still, it’s a very frustrating perspective.

  • typo says:

    @typo sorry, I meant to say “asked her what a more democratic/non-hierarchical military would look like”

  • opinion.. says:

    @opinion.. i’m pro-nrotc if and only if…
    nrotc candidates have weekly performances of “in the navy” on the sundial. that’s my deal-breaker.

  • Just wondering says:

    @Just wondering Do you think that the tone is that Columbia is anti-DADT or anti military?

  • NROTC supporter says:

    @NROTC supporter “He cited the low numbers of minority officers in the military”

    When Bollinger’s affirmative action case won in the Supreme Court a few years ago, one of the main reasons cited was the advocacy of military leaders who support affirmative action in universities order so that ROTC-trained officers will be more diverse. It’s ironic then that Bollinger, who worked so closely with military leaders to win this career-defining Supreme Court case, would defend the absence of ROTC at his own academic institution.

    As a on-time enlisted soldier, I worked with/for male and female officers. Therefore, it’s hard for me to think of military officers of any race or gender as oppressed people.

    1. Irony says:

      @Irony is a bitch. So? He was at a different university with a different policy on discrimination.

      You may even be surprised to learn that he is not in fact in love with the many alumni who have contributed to the capital campaign, even if he conveyed that impression at alumni functions.

      As for the question of anti-DADT vs. anti-Military, I think that if DADT were repealed, there would be no legal impediment to re-allowing ROTC back on campus. Yes, some anti-war groups might oppose it on the grounds that they love peace, but the massive opposition from the Queer community would subside – it would in fact be a victory for them and they might even support enlistment. So while it might be a good academic question, the reality is that if DADT were repealed, the ROTC would probably be allowed back onto campus, and people would celebrate the progression towards a more tolerant military. Most students, in my view, would support a return, because most people are intelligent enough to realize that the nature of a military as imperialistic, aggressive or defensive is a function of foreign policy, ie, who you elect to office.

      1. NROTC supporter says:

        @NROTC supporter I’m too lazy to google their discrimination policies to compare with ours, but are you saying that at Dartmouth, where Bollinger was provost with Army ROTC, and U.Michigan, where he was president with Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC, it was open season on LGBT students?

        I wonder if military status is a protected category in their discrimination policies, like it is in ours.

        1. nope says:

          @nope They simply may not have had a discriminatory policy – or student volition to enforce it – that explicitly contradicts the letter of DADT.

          The legal impediment I’m referring to is a contradiction of one’s own constitution. For example, everyone knows about the provisions of the second amendment; now lets assume there are no state/city laws regulating guns, the University could theoretically have a rule that says “no guns in the classroom”. So I’m talking about a violation of their own rules.

          1. NROTC supporter says:

            @NROTC supporter Columbia already violates its own rules with Barnard. That’s not to say Barnard should be banned for blatantly violating the gender and admissions rules of the discrimination policy, but it is to say the discrimination policy isn’t an inflexible be-all/end-all. Columbia can and does accomodate violations of the rules when there’s a greater good at stake.

            I acknowledge that good people, gay and straight, including myself, are rightfully bothered by DADT. I hope that that sentiment leads to more affirmative action for reform of the law, but at the same time, I don’t see that real harm will come to LGBT students at Columbia if NROTC comes back. DADT is a government policy, not Columbia’s. On the other hand, there is a greater good that can be achieved with NROTC here.

            Call me a hopeful idealist, I just believe that Columbia-educated Navy and USMC officers can accomplish a lot of good in this world, by leading well in the military community, and making intelligent, ethical decisions that directly affect sailors and Marines and, as importantly, the people they interact with around the world. Have you heard about what young lieutenants and captains, barely out of college, are responsible for ‘over there’ in their simultaneous roles as warriors and peace-builders? It’s really amazing and clear to me that Columbians can do a lot of good in those roles.

          2. look says:

            @look Barnard is a women’s college, and while technically your point may be valid, c’mon. And to generalize that example and say that Columbia routinely violates its own policies is a stretch.

            Think of it this way – if the Double Discovery Center did not allow openly gay people to volunteer with them or work on their staff, do you think that they would be allowed to run a program at Columbia? Everyone knows the DDC provides great service to the community, but having them on campus would simply be unconstitutional.

          3. NROTC supporter says:

            @NROTC supporter If you agree it’s true, then why “c’mon”? After all, Radcliffe was absorbed into co-ed Harvard. Why hasn’t Barnard been absorbed into co-ed Columbia? And what if DDC didn’t hire men? Really, my point is not to speak ill of Barnard. I believe Barnard has an important mission as an elite womens college. I don’t know if Barnard’s mission is as important as our military’s mission, but it’s important. The mission and purpose of our military is also a tad more important than DDC’s.

          4. hmm says:

            @hmm I think the idea of a Women’s college isn’t really discriminatory towards men, because women’s colleges advocate for the upliftment and education of women in a way that is unique to the history, experiences and issues facing that gender. All boys’ schools exist too, but these aren’t considered discriminatory.

            But here’s the crux of your argument though: the military, because of it’s important mission, should be exempt from the rules. Most of the pro-ROTC voices in this debate have not attempted to come up with a justification for DADT or how the ROTC’s existence on campus can be fair given the existence of DADT. Instead, all I’ve heard is that ROTC is ‘too important’ or ‘too great’ for it to get bogged down in ther ules. And sorry but in my view, the sum of all community service organizations in this country are as important and as honorable as the military. As a unit, DDC is probably more effective than having a unit of the ROTC/NROTC at Columbia (given that it is widely accepted that few CU students would join and hence the ROTC would never come here). Unless of course you feel that military service is more important and honorable than community service, but that would just make your argument is stupid as the anti-military activists.

          5. Listen Closer says:

            @Listen Closer Many (if not all) of the Pro-ROTC voices oppose DADT. Most of the Pro-ROTC voices support bringing it back to Ivy League campuses so our future officers can help effect positive change, not only in terms of DADT but in other areas as well.

          6. Agreed says:

            @Agreed I don’t know anybody who thinks DADT is a good policy, but it’s a federal law, not a military decision. The best way to change the policy is to lobby Congress, and the best way to do that is to get liberal-minded people into the military who can tell Congress what they believe. You can make the argument that the best way to fight discrimination is to allow ROTC on to campus. People who make the argument about “few Columbia students would join” should realize that the argument then becomes “fewer GAY Columbia students (if any) would join” and that renders the discrimination purely symbolic. It’s not like gay students are knocking down the door to join the military; I think there are other gay rights issues slightly more important to them. Incidentally, I’m one of the Columbia students who might have taken advantage of NROTC; instead I’ll be pursuing a different path into the military, but I’ll still be taking Columbia classes while on active duty.

      2. NROTC supporter says:

        @NROTC supporter Missed this: “there would be no legal impediment to re-allowing ROTC back on campus.”

        There is no legal impediment to re-allowing ROTC back on campus now. DADT, as awful as it is, is a federal law. So is the Solomon Amendment.

  • you know says:

    @you know The Barnard argument is pretty weak, imo, but as far as gender goes, Barnard does actually discriminate pretty terribly against transgendered people. Any trangendered alum will tell you that.

    The point is that discrimination already exists on campus. Call it Red Cross blood drives, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Jews, recruiting by the State Department, whatever. The military is a reflection of society, and society is pretty discriminatory. Why is the military the one institution that we can’t possibly change and must therefore boycott?

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