Learned Foote Argues for ROTC in the WSJ

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Tomorrow’s opinion section of the Wall Street Journal features a familiar byline: a one Mr. Learned Foote, CC 2011 President.

Foote, speaking as a gay pro-ROTC student, said that he felt conflicted in his eventual decision to back repealing the ROTC ban. “I wanted to fight discrimination, but I also wanted Columbia to restore its relationship with a fundamental American institution,” he said.

Foote argued that if students are unhappy with the current DADT policy, they would be wise to permit the return of ROTC to campus, to influence change “from the bottom up.” He concludes by stating that since Columbia is “a university funded in part by taxpayer dollars, we cannot excuse ourselves from actively engaging with the military.” 

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  1. well

    congratulations learned foote, you've been used as a tokenist tool by the media organ of the righteous financial elite. but hey, ya got your name in the paper!

    • Learned using WSJ

      Given that Learned is a *leader* of Columbia Students for NROTC, I tend to think he's using WSJ for his agenda rather than the other way around.

      I also would be surprised if Learned didn't present his op-ed to other media outlets. If WSJ published where other media outlets rejected, then good for WSJ.

  2. I love  

    Learned Foote.

    Don't hate.

  3. Alum

    When I saw the article I thought "Learned Foote" was a psuedonym, alluding to Learned Hand.

    Then I checked the directory and saw that he's for real. It's now one of my favorite names (though Learned Hand is better.)

  4. student  

    Learned, good for you! Congratulations!

  5. Nice  

    Start for his CCSC E-board campaign.

  6. Learned Foote  

    Professional Pimp

  7. Alum08

    Even if the WSJ's opinion section is pretty conservative, the fact that a college student, let alone Learned, got an article into the paper is fantastic.

    I'm just happy to see an accomplished person get that kind of nod. Congrats, Learned!!!

  8. wow  

    that's kind of awesome. congrats

  9. congrats?

    I've never met him, but I think it is pretty cool that he got an editorial in the WSJ. I think it's well-written and that he has a logical argument. I don't see how it's selling out if he is writing about what he believes in.

  10. lame  

    his article is well written and it's cool that a fellow columbia undergrad got his article in the WSJ but there is no way columbia should invite ROTC back on campus!!!!!

  11. Learned Foote  

    is my hero!

  12. allusion?  

    more like parody

  13. oh please  

    learned foote likes to present the counter argument to EVERYTHING on this campus in an attempt to get attention. he voted for mccain because he said that obama was only pretending to support gay rights.

    this kid is a desperate resume padder who's beyond uncomfortable with his sexuality and is counterproductive to gay progress at this school. he's almost as annoying as chris kulawik.

  14. good for


  15. I'd like to see  

    Learned Foote meet Stupid Hand

  16. I just don't  

    understand why this op-ed is even relevant at this point. If NROTC not even going to a vote in the Senate, then it seems to just be stirring up useless controversy and speculation about Foote's future ambitions.

    It would be one thing if NROTC looked like it had been gaining momentum over the past couple of years, but just the opposite is taking place. In 2003, 2/3rds of the student body voted for NROTC's return. This year, it lost.

    NROTC is clearly a dead issue. Please, let's move on!

    • CU irrelevant

      "NROTC is clearly a dead issue"

      For a dead issue, funny how ROTC at Columbia keeps firing back up. The 2002-05 movement wasn't the 1st, although it was the best recorded. Even in Spring 2002, opponents argued that the issue was decided conclusively in '68 and should be a dead issue. They seemed to believe that it was all a conspiracy, that an evil top-secret propaganda wing of the Pentagon was trying to take over Columbia. They didn't want to believe that new progressive generations of students recognized that Columbia's policy on ROTC diminished Columbia and Columbia's ability to be a force for change in a vital institution and community.

      Then, opponents thought the issue was decided conclusively in 2005. But yet in 2008, the issue has come back strongly again with a new generation of students. The difference is, this time, more faculty came out publicly in support, including faculty who turned down public support of ROTC in 2005, and the movement this time was largely driven by students who are not military-related (milvets and cadets).

      After everything else, I don't imagine an inconclusive and flawed student poll that ended in a virtual tie will kill off the ROTC return movement. It takes times for change and to overcome the influence of entrenched anti-ROTC reactionaries. But progress will not be denied.

    • Michael Segal

      If the most important thing to do to get ROTC on campus is to get Congress to reform the "Don't ask, don't tell" law, what better way to push for bipartisan acceptance of such a change than to make the case for reform in the Wall Street Journal? How many other gay rights op-eds have you seen in the Wall Street Journal?

  17. well....  

    could u imagine a black person defending segregation? Learned clearly hates himself.

  18. Learned  

    literally does everything. Seriously. This guy better take his Christmas vacation in Tahiti away from all civilization.

    He's simply too much man to handle ;)

  19. Why CC'11?  

    Class of ’11, how gullible do we have to be to continue to vote for this guy?

    Notice the blaring argumentum ad verecundiam (I use this term instead of “argument from authority” because it gives my own argument authority) by stating he’s a “gay pro-NROTC student” every other paragraph, and the complete non sequiturs of university responsibilities to public taxes and of the whole “bottom up” talking point.

    Mr. Foote has already been accused on this forum of being a traitor, a sell-out, an annoying resume padder, etc…I’ll heartily add that he’s an intellectually feeble tool for Rupert Murdoch who offers poorly written editorials with no substance whatsoever except for whines and moans about his personal life …

    Way to make Columbia proud…Learned…

  20. Sprinkles


    Why is it the responsibility of gay Columbia students to change a government institution? Isn't it the government's responsibility to not discriminate, and Columbia's responsibility to uphold the anti-discrimination policy?

    The government does not have to change anything it doesn't want. And I'm pretty sure that once ROTC gets onto this campus, they're not going to change a nationwide policy just to suit us. People have been fighting DADT for ages - why should we give in first, and then try to change things? ROTC should change its policy first to prove it is not a discriminatory institution, THEN it will be allowed back at Columbia. The onus is theirs.

    • alumnus

      "People have been fighting DADT for ages..."

      Ah, youth.

      Wasn't Bill Clinton the President who enacted DADT? Ages ago, I'm sure.

    • CU irrelevant


      Way to represent Columbia as a progressive institution and its graduates as a force for change.

      Oh no, let's reject things not like us even if they are a critical part of our society ... we're not insular, self-serving navel-gazers, not at all ...

  21. well!  

    i love learned. i disagree with him on a lot of political issues, but i LOVE that man. i really do.

  22. ROTCer  

    When I go back to the Army as an officer in a few years time, it would be my pleasure to serve with someone like Learned.

    • yeah...  

      yeah, too bad he can't serve with you. pretty sure identifying yourself in the WSJ as 'gay' kinda counts as a 'tell'.

      dadt is ridiculously prejudice and an embarrassment to our nation. no way I want that backwards policy enforced IN ANY WAY, by any organization, on my campus. I have deep admiration for those who serve in our military, straight, gay, or whatever, its just the policy and the motivation behind it that i cannot tolerate.

  23. wow  

    honestly? fuck this tool. he's a leader in students for NROTC? wow, so he's one of the people behing the group that wasted tons and tons of paper to shove flyers under EVERY door in wien(maybe more dorms) telling us to vote in favor of bring NROTC back because "the military is a tool of democracy". gimme a break.

  24. ICanRelate(kindof)  

    I relate to this article. I was in similar position, (though, I was certainly never pro mccain), I felt as if the pros of bringing ROTC on campus outweighed the cons. I was not active in campaigning, but I do think there is a place for the gay-pro ROTCer. It's unfortunate that when someone decides to take this view, he's called uncomfortable with his sexuality. Unless he really is that big of a douche, which reading his article and about him, he seems as if he just might be.

  25. ...  

    i believe in policy and the rule of law, without it, we'd have no guides and would be completely lost.

    as such, fix the laws, don't make exceptions. in this case, either columbia needs to do away with it's anti-discrimination policy, or the federal government needs to do away with it's discriminatory policy.

    any compromise that does not result in either of those two outcomes is an affront to the spirit of law. making special exceptions for the federal government is a slippery slope that leads nowhere good.

    ...regardless of what some kid got published in a high profile conservative paper by preaching to the choir with a compelling hook.

    • Michael Segal

      Columbia's nondiscrimination policy ( reads "Columbia University is committed to providing a working and learning environment free from unlawful discrimination and harassment and to fostering a nurturing and vibrant community founded upon the fundamental dignity and worth of all of its members."

      DADT is not "unlawful discrimination"; indeed it IS the law. Many of us don't like the law and want to change it, but it is not true that "either columbia needs to do away with it's anti-discrimination policy, or the federal government needs to do away with it's discriminatory policy".

      • ...  

        that's the equal opportunity employment policy. the policy with regard to academic programming can be found here:

        "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 or permit the harassment of any student or applicant on the basis of race, color, sex, gender (including gender identity and expression), pregnancy, religion, creed, marital status, partnership status, age, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, military status, or any other legally protected status."

        you may wish to point out that military status is also protected, this is true. i have seen no evidence of discrimination against those with military status (indeed, some programs, like gs, have a healthy contingent of veterans)

        however, the policy clearly forbids operation of academic programs which specifically discriminate against any of the mentioned groups.

        for rotc to return, the policy would have to be amended. how do you suggest it be amended?

        • Michael Segal

          Thanks for the clarification about the two different nondiscrimination policies. I'd favor putting the focus on "unlawful discrimination" in both policies, as well as favor an effort to reform the DADT law itself.

          I think that efforts such as Learned Foote's article to change the status quo on both ROTC and DADT are the right approach, and by stressing the willingness to serve one will foster the goodwill to make DADT reform happen faster.

          The military is different from a law firm, and I'd give some slack to the federal law that recognizes that, as well as recognize that the sexual privacy infrastructure added to the military to facilitate integration of women has paved the way for easy integration of gays and lesbians.

          I trust Barack Obama's sincerity on this issue and I think we can help him bring about change by stressing a respect for the military and a desire to serve.

        • Michael Segal

          After reviewing in more detail, it does include the "unlawful language": "it is the policy of the University not to tolerate unlawful discrimination". It also says "Columbia University does not discriminate against any person ... on the basis of gender (including gender identity and expression)".

          As a result, the meaning of the policy is quite unclear when it comes to discrimination required by federal law, as is DADT. Columbia's policy should be clarified either to say that it accepts the law or rejects the law.

  26. JDS  

    Do these commenters calling Learned a "tool" actually know him? I know him, and I know he's an honest, genuine person who understands this campus much better than most of us do -- and sees a great opportunity here for Columbia to advance gay rights at the national policy level.

  27. "its"

    "Columbia University does not discriminate against any person in the administration of its educational policies ..."

    "its" refers to Columbia University's policies and DADT is not Columbia University's policy. Barnard's admissions policy - which clearly would violate the university's discrimination policy - also can be argued not to be Columbia University's policy. DADT is a federal law, not a university policy. Admittedly, the best solution is for DADT to end, but as matters stand, it can be done. In fact, other schools with robust discrimination policies and ROTC on campus make the distinction; Columbia, while opposing discrimination and supporting ROTC, should do the same.

    • ...  

      it is the policy of the university to not run programs which discriminate. bringing rotc on campus would involve co-administration of a program which is discriminatory. i don't see your point.

      the barnard issue is interesting. revision of the anti discrimination policy is warranted.

      i'll ask again. what do "you," (ie: the rah rah rotc people), propose for new language for the anti discrimination policy?

      give me a new anti discrimination policy that a) still offers the same protections as the current one and b) doesn't give the federal government a special exception just because they're the federal government...

      • I'll Ask You

        What do "you" (ie: the rah rah Barnard people) propose for the new language of the anti discrimination policy?

        give me a new anti discrimination policy that a) still offers the same protections as the current one and b) doesn't give Barnard a special exception just because they're Barnard...

        Sounds stupid now, right? Guess where I got the wording from.

      • That's the point

        It's not clear ROTC on campus would require any change to the university's discrimination policy due to the existing qualifications of "unlawful discrimination" and "its ... policies". Of course, if an adjustment is required to the discrimination policy, the best person on campus to consult would not be a "rah rah ROTC advocate", but President Bollinger, who was provost at Dartmouth with Army ROTC and president of U.Michigan with Army ROTC, Air Force ROTC, and of course, Navy ROTC. I don't believe Columbia would have hired Bollinger as our president if he had any indication in his administrative background of fostering discrimination at either Dartmouth or U.Michigan with their ROTCs. I also believe President Bollinger would not have so enthusiastically embraced the critical assistance of military leaders in his Supreme Court affirmative action case if he believed ROTC was incompatible with the university, given that their support for affirmative action was based largely on the university-ROTC relationship. If anyone is qualified to make ROTC work at Columbia, it's Prezbo.

        As a matter of principle, whether or not it must, Columbia with ROTC should advocate for DADT reform while simultaneously strengthening our civic virtue and advancing the public good by enabling the increase of CU graduates in the military's leadership.

      • That's the point

        FYI ...

        Dartmouth's discrimination policy:
        Dartmouth Army ROTC:

        University of Michigan's discrimination policy:
        UMichigan Army ROTC:
        UMichigan Air Force ROTC:
        UMichigan Navy ROTC:

        Whatever they can do, we can do better, right? If not, then what's the point of us being Columbia?

  28. Anonymous  

    so earlier today, some girl in a red jacket dropped a copy of Learneds wall street article on my desk while i was reading in was in pamphlet form, and the back read "devil's advocate society".

    Does anyone know who these people are? Is it a pro NROTC group or just learned himself? that would be dumb. bwog. investigate!

  29. 0o0o0o0o

    Learned, congratulations. I'm very proud of you.

  30. But  

    If the every law should be enforced without exceptions, then the government should stop giving Columbia government funds... That would be horrid, wouldn't it?

  31. lol WSJ  

    I read their Business section for news and their Op-Ed section for comic relief.

  32. Congrats  

    To Mr. Foote for getting published. BUT I gotta say, why did WSJ publish this column, given the current economic environment? Shouldn't it be offering its readers advice on how they can avoid screwing up, and taking society down with them?

    Oh. Sorry. It's the WSJ, same guys that brought you global warming denial. When reality bites, run straight to the wedge issues.

    None of that is Learned's problem. I think it's quite remarkable he got published.

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