Bloomberg Weighs In On ROTC Debate

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Earlier today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared on The John Gambling Show to offer his opinion on, among other things, the controversy surrounding ROTC at Columbia. He seemed disappointed  upon hearing that veteran Anthony Maschek was heckled at last week’s town hall. After an audible sigh, he waxed philosophic on college kids, explaining that “a lot of students do things without thinking. Later on, they’ll look back and say, ‘Why did I ever say that?'”

The mayor was also sympathetic toward Maschek, telling listeners, “the bottom line is this a guy who deserves a lot of respect. These kids had the right to do what they did because he went overseas and put their life on the line.” Bloomberg sees ROTC is a legitimate choice for students which could only be opposed by the discriminatory practices of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” His final opinion on the matter: “I think Columbia should—and this is my opinion, I can’t tell Columbia what to do—they should open a ROTC program and give the kids the alternative. These kids who are protesting, my advice to them: don’t join! That’s OK. You don’t have to join, but if others want to, let them do it.”

Bloomberg’s pragmatic approach to the controversy is unlikely to convince the opponents of ROTC at Columbia, who seem chiefly concerned with philosophical implications of ROTC at Columbia that the mayor does not mention. Instead, his voice adds to the chorus of those who see the return of ROTC as a logical consequence of the repeal of DADT. And this is not the first time that he’s weighed in Columbian controversy. In 2006, Bloomberg criticized Bollinger for his handling of the Minuteman protest.

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  1. The world's watching

    At this crossroads in our history, Columbia must choose: are we an “Ivory Tower” disconnected from the needs of People and nation, and only good for insular thinking and selfish pursuits? Or, are we truly America’s producer of vanguard leaders who pursue the greater good and the improvement of all parts of our society, including the military?

    The decision we make for ROTC at Columbia is about more than just ROTC. We are shaping our generation’s vision of Columbia University and of ourselves as fellow citizens.

    • Anonymous  

      i am not sure why this is a crossroads in columbia's history, but why does taking a stand against militarism - and against the idea that "vanguard leaders who purse the greater good and the improvement of all parts of our society" should have much to do with officers who obey orders - amount to becoming an "ivory tower"? It seems to me quite the opposite. Whether we actively accept or actively reject an institution or practice outside the university, we're still interacting with "people and nation."

      The act is symbolic of course. But really, it's largely symbolic one way or the other, as many people have noted, since Columbia students can go to Fordham, and the number of students interested in ROTC is relatively low at any rate.

      • Anonymous

        Has anyone from the anti side defined militarism as they so often use it? Could someone do it here?

        • Anonymous

          1. Glorification of the ideals of a professional military class.
          2. Predominance of the armed forces in the administration or policy of the state.
          3. A policy in which military preparedness is of primary importance to a state.

        • Anonymous  

          Militarism is the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests. It has also been defined as "aggressiveness that involves the threat of using military force", and the glorification of the ideas of a professional military class" and "Predominance of the armed forces in the administration or policy of the state."

          via Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militarism

          • i'm sorry what?

            You want Columbia to take a stand against THIS?: "Militarism is the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests."

            I don't want to go to school where no professors teach the common sense you define as "militarism." I learned a lot in Richard Betts' class, thanks. The University is about the free exchange of ideas, not banning perfectly mainstream ideas that you maintain are wrong.

            Now I might be taken aback by the "predominance" definition, but I doubt we'd get many people teaching that.

          • Anonymous  

            Oh honey. You're so cute.

            (1) the vast majority of people opposed to the immediate return of ROTC are not opposed to the military, or even to the principle of ROTC on campus -- they just object to its current discriminatory policies. The people who say these things are a small, but vocal, minority.

            (2) I was simply providing an alternative definition.

          • ???  

            I was responding to the initial post saying Columbia should take a stance against militarism. Your impression of what the "vast majority" of students believe has nothing to do with my argument.

          • non-disc policy fine with ROTC

            ROTC opponents ought to look closer at Columbia then, because discrimination by Columbia is normal. Whether the particular discrimination is allowed by the non-discrimination policy is determined by whether it is lawful or unlawful. Unlawful discrimination is barred, whereas military personnel policy, as with Barnard's female policy or CC's age policy, is lawful. More, a federal policy is not Columbia policy. The reach of the military's commissioning requirements would be limited to commissioning cadets, while much of the ROTC program normally is open to the general student body.

            Simply stated, the non-discrimination policy is not the blanket extreme standard asserted by anti-ROTC activists. The policy only actually protects students from unlawful discrimination and discriminatory harassment. The rest is up to the University's discretion. In fact, the non-discrimination policy includes a superseding provision that says nothing in the non-discrimination policy will abridge the Columbia's educational mission. Pedagogy trumps non-discrimination. If the University Senate decides on the merits to add ROTC to Columbia's educational mission, then the non-discrimination controversy will be moot.

  2. Whatever  

    Funny how so many Muslims are against ROTC when their own religion is so discriminatory.

    • a muslim '11

      fuck you. i am a muslim and i am for ROTC. your attack on my religion shows that you are no different form the anti-ROTC protestors who are banding out the word 'discrimination' without any real understanding of its implication.

      so yeah fuck you.

  3. yeah  

    I heard the MSA officially came out against it int heir latest email

  4. Anonymous

    Good for Bloomberg. I hope he runs for president.

  5. Thoughtful Spectator

    After ROTC loses this battle, I wonder if the anti-ROTC side will make good on their rhetoric and challenge the University's other institutionalized lawful discriminating, yet philosophically ambiguous (in terms of discrimination or imperialism) bodies like:

    the Catholic church, Department of Defense research grants and contracts, the school of General Studies, SIPA, CBS, Journalism (to name a few) and even students from the College who are currently on active or active reserve duty in the military and are paying for their education on DoD contracts with Columbia and not on VA contracts like most of the veterans at GS?

    Or non-institutionalized bodies that regularly recruit on campus such as:
    the New York Blood Bank, the CIA/FBI/and all other alphabet soup agencies, and military recruiters?

    • Anonymous  

      You're quite clearly not very "thoughtful" at all -- all student groups, regardless of religious affiliation, are required to abide by the University's non-discrimination policy. Also, in contrast to an ROTC program, the Catholic Church does not have control over an entire academic department here, its presence does not necessitate perpetuating a sham in which non-PhDs are called "professor," and the Catholic groups on campus are, like I said already, FORCED TO ABIDE BY THE NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICY.

      • Non-disc policy fine with ROTC

        ROTC wouldn't violate the non-discrimination policy. The non-discrimination policy only bars unlawful discrimination. Military personnel policy is lawful and only applies to cadets committed to a commission, not all students interested in ROTC classes. A lot of the ROTC program normally is open to the general student body to fulfill ROTC's interactive educational function on campus.

        Finally, Columbia doesn't employ an inflexible standard of non-discrimination, anyway. The non-discrimination policy states "Nothing in this policy shall abridge academic freedom or the University’s educational mission." The University Senate is deciding whether ROTC will be added to the University's educational mission.

        • Reality.  

          Actually, this isn't true at all. If you actually read the non-discrimination policy, the "unlawful discrimination" clause is in a totally different part of the document. The statement opens by saying,

          "Columbia University is committed to providing a 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. Consistent with this commitment and with applicable laws, it is the policy of the University not to tolerate unlawful discrimination or harassment in any form and to provide students who feel that they are victims of discrimination or harassment with mechanisms for seeking redress."

          While banning all "unlawful discrimination," Columbia also has discrimination that it bans, separately from whether it is "lawful" or not:

          "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."

          • non-disc policy fine with ROTC

            Columbia's non-discrimination policy protects students from 2 things: unlawful discrimination and discriminatory harassment. Even then, “Nothing in this policy shall abridge academic freedom or the University’s educational mission.” In other words, Columbia does not use the extreme standard of non-discrimination asserted by anti-ROTC activists.

            One, military personnel policy is lawful. Two, Columbia's normal standards of behavior would apply to ROTC. ROTC would not allow discriminatory harassment. Three, if the University Senate decides ROTC will be part of the University's educational mission, then the entire controversy will be moot.

      • Also

        The faculty appointment issue can be worked out. It's been solved at universities comparable to Columbia that host ROTC. At MIT, ROTC leaders are designated as “visiting professors.” At Princeton, ROTC professors are assigned “a rank equivalent to the senior academic rank of professor.” These formulations don't undermine the status of regular tenured professors and have similar matches within Columbia’s instructional appointment policy.

        That said, I hope Columbia works with the military to assign officers with PhDs to teach at Columbia, maybe even officers with Columbia PhDs.

      • anon

        I think he was also referring to the argument regarding the imperialistic aspects of US foreign policy. At the very least, it would be consistent with your argument to demand that other arms of the US national security machine, i.e. State Department, FBI and CIA, stop recruiting at Columbia.

      • Thoughtful Spectator

        I guess poorly research trash-talk makes you better.

        When was the last time you saw a woman catholic priest? How does that fit in with the university policy?

        ROTC does not control any, much less entire, academic departments anywhere. Sorry.

        Columbia has plenty of Adjuncts that are not PhDs and are still called professors. Plenty of schools have professors of practice who don't hold higher degrees, but are subject matter experts in their fields.

        I am just asking questions. You can write in all caps if you want. We can just call you ALL CAPS from now on... that's for the special people who ride the special bus with the flavored windows.

        BTW: It's not that serious. I don't really care about ROTC one way or another. I graduate in a few and will laugh about "Heckle-gate" for the rest of my days. Ciao ALL CAPS!

        • Reality.  

          The Catholic Church doesn't operate as an institution on campus. Yes, there are clubs here for student groups, but it has no institutional presence. And therein lies the distinction.

          Christ, how did you even get in here?

          • Thoughtful Spectator

            You too huh?

            I see that you like throwing around words that either A. You don't know how to use or B. You use in the broadest sense so that you can cover your butt and argue semantics in case your wrong.

            If you look at:


            The Columbia Catholic Ministry is an institution on campus since its stated mission and activities use similar verbiage to these definitions:

            from Dictionary.com
            1. an organization, establishment, foundation, society, or the like, devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program, especially one of a public, educational, or charitable character

            From the OED
            1.The action of instituting or establishing; setting on foot or in operation; foundation; ordainment; the fact of being instituted.

            4. Training, instruction, education, teaching

            6. An established law, custom, usage, practice, organization, or other element in the political or social life of a people; a regulative principle or convention subservient to the needs of an organized community or the general ends of civilization

            7. An establishment, organization, or association, instituted for the promotion of some object, esp. one of public or general utility, religious, charitable, educational, etc., e.g. a church, school, college, hospital, asylum, reformatory, mission, or the like; as a literary and philosophical institution, a deaf and dumb institution, the Royal National Life-boat Institution, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (instituted 1798), the Railway Benevolent Institution, etc. The name is often popularly applied to the building appropriated to the work of a benevolent or educational institution.

            And it even has two buildings that they have granted control from the university.

            How did you get here?

        • Thoughtful Spectator

          I figure I should also ask questions of the pro-side too:

          Why is it so important to have a program at Columbia?

          I have heard the diversity argument, the more military scholarships will free up financial aid for more students argument, the "it is just the right thing to do because I am a veteran vouching for it" argument, the military isn't that bad argument, but we already have cadets and veterans.

          Then why have a program on campus? What does that mean anyway ideologically and pragmatically for the military? Is it just military science classes? What are those? Can our professors teach them? Can other students attend who are not "in the program" take them and get credit for them too? Can those students be transexuals since they are might not be planning on being recruited?

          What happens if the University decides not to have a program? Will the we lose funding? What about recruiters? I heard about the Solomon Amendment, does that apply to ROTC recruiters if they are not allowed on campus?

  6. Honestly,  

    Bloomberg's point brings home the key point: Columbia is the one discriminating here, if you think about it. Give people the freedom of choice god damn it. That's what our country's all about, how is it reasonable that a prestigious educational institution must be different? Because ironically out of all people, the university thinks WE are the ones who can't think for ourselves?

  7. Anonymous

    I'm not sure the implications of having uniformed students sitting in class or of classes and instructors who are not subject to the same review process as all other university classes are purely philosophical. Biased reporting.

    • philosophical  

      I think you're misreading the quote. The point is that Bloomberg may think ROTC is a choice that doesn't affect those who "choose not to participate," but he's missing the fact (important to the opponents of ROTC) that allowing it onto Columbia's campus would have important implications for Columbia's identity, such as the fact that they're formally collaborating with the military or allowing an institution that discriminates against transgender students to award academic credit. These consequences are philosophical, which is why the mayor glosses over them. Columbia students, of course, do not. If it's biased in any direction, I think that quote is sympathetic to your side!

      • Anonymous

        you claim that the military discriminates against transgender individuals. i have a question for you: what exactly does that discrimination look like? transgender itself is an amorphous concept, yet you and others blindly use it as a bludgeon against any and all things rotc. under DADT, it was clear what that discrimination looked like. you so much as said you were gay, and you were gone. now DADT is gone. gay individuals will be free to serve just as anyone else. so what exactly is the nature of said discrimination against transgender individuals? you take hormone therapy? then it's clear from a medical standpoint why you wouldn't be allowed to enlist. you like to wear clothing of the opposite gender? in the military everyone wears a uniform, so that's a moot point. you're a girl who feels like she fits in more with men than with women? no problem...i'm pretty sure that question is not part of the screening process. you're a guy who likes guys? that's not a problem anymore either. so please, now that DADT has been abolished, describe exactly what this so-called discrimination against transgender individuals would look like.

        • Reality.  

          "gay individuals will be free to serve just as anyone else."

          Actually that's bullshit. Gay servicemembers, unlike their heterosexual counterparts, are not permitted to have physical relationships, regardless of whether they are on or off duty, regardless of where they are.

          • Anonymous

            you didn't respond to the initial issue i raised (the question was: please deliniate how exactly the military will be discriminating against trasngendered individuals). i'll take your lack of a response as a sign that you don't have an answer.

            as for your non-sequitur, the situation you describe applied prior to the repeal of DADT. granted, we still don't know what the post-DADT military will look like down to the last detail. but i think it follows logically that, since gay men and women will soon be allowed to serve, the military will not take issue with them having gay sexual relations in their personal lives.

  8. Anonymous  

    The king of New York supports campus militarization. Never averse to the decay of democratic process, Mr. Bloomberg doubtlessly takes no qualms with the conduct of the university survey--an instrument which blatantly disenfranchises vast swaths of the university population. What harm is the inculcation of militants in the eye of an oligarch?

    At his core he is a businessman and the presently questioned evaluation obviously bears this particular derivation. An economic theory of war, absurd in its ideation, is even more ridiculous when one considers its practice.


    So, he reads the Iraq war:
    Expenditure/investment: 20,000 dead coalition forces (us)
    Return on investment: 40-80,000 dead Iraqi insurgents/combatants (the other/them...and we do mean the oil rich them)
    What robust returns! Let's not even talk about Afghanistan or the unofficial war in Pakistan, for time is all too brief.

    My sympathies lie with each of these victims, not because of side or any particular philosophy espoused. Rather, because I too will see the brief time allotted me described by the machinations of a handful of arrogant Harvard MBAs.

    Bloomberg's statement lacks any real argumentation, mindlessly prescribing to the cult of Americanism, while offering distracter issues. Sure, some idiots publicly called a veteran racist in response to a statement which obviously bears trace elements of imperialistic thinking. But those idiots certainly didn't use the remainder of the guy’s fractured life as a political pawn. Mr. Bloomberg, has not the man who fought to protect your "freely attained" fortune been shot at enough?

    Anyone interested in how the logic of militarism actually works should please refer to Professor Richard K Betts as a starting point. He is also, unsurprisingly, in public support of ROTC's return. (Why do the fucking "realists" carry the most delusions?)

  9. Anonymous  

    You can't heckle a man who was shot 11 times in the line of duty. I don't care what your position on ROTC is. It's like when students stormed the stage when Jim Gilchrist of the Minutemen came to campus in 2006. At some point, the reasonable opinions of students are eclipsed by thoughtless actions. Those stupid actions become the story, and the media and populace forget about the substance of the debate. It doesn't help anyone's argument, and it makes all Columbia students look petty and childish.

    Take whatever side you want, just act like an adult.

    • Bullshit  

      My freshman year of high school, I was subjected to a speaker by the name of Lt. Clebe McClary. Lt. McClary is a Vietnam veteran who lost an eye and an arm in combat. During his speech, he attack gay marriage, indeed homosexuality in general as some sort of absurdity. He went on to trivialize teenage suicide. I'm not sure what either topic has to do with Lt. McClary's 'area of expertise,' but he certainly seemed to think they were relevant.

      At the end of this speech, the majority of the school gave him a standing ovation. In my youthful confusion and cowardice, I reluctantly joined in. Only a handful of faculty and perhaps a few older students remained seated and silent. I regretted my actions an hour later, and still do to this day. Such a man, regardless of his past, should not be unconditionally respected. If I saw him today, I would let him know exactly what I think of him, decorum be damned. Veterans should be held (publically) accountable for their words the same as anyone else.

      • Sure,

        but Mr. Maschek didn't say anything of the sort. Moreover, it was the moderator's responsibility to moderate the conversation and not that of the students. If Mr. Maschek was saying anything that was deemed to offensive to be said (which he wasn't) the moderator would have cut him short. It isn't like Mr. Maschek was dropping racial slurs; he was explaining the situation that he has developed from his first hand experience of the Global War on Terror.

        A side point: The goal of Al Qaeda is the destruction of the American way life and subjugation of the American people. This isn't racist nor is it an opinion. This what the members of that group have stated as their goal. Look it up. So when Mr. Maschek says that there are people who hate you and want to kill you, it's true.

        • Totally  

          Beside the point. I was responding to the catagorical assertion that one cannot heckle someone who was wounded in combat.

          • You

            shouldn't heckle anyone at anytime. It is never the responsibility of the masses to moderate what is supposed to be a free discussion. Remember that whole JS Mill thing about silencing people?

            The bottom line is that just because you may not like what someone is saying does not give you the right to heckle them.

  10. Anonymous

    If a tranny who surgically removed his penis, be allowed to play NCAA womens varsity basketball? What if, after the surgery they considered themselves a lesbian, would they have free rein of the womens locker room? I think there is more discrimination going on around campus than what meets the eye.

    When is all this ROTC talk going to be over? Either way it goes I don't care, before this debate life around Columbia used to be cooler, now all anything most people talk about is this ROTC thing which really only effects, what the ten people who are in it? A tranny actually breaking the sports barrier, now that would be something interesting enough to talk about.

    • CC11

      Wow, you make me ashamed I attend Columbia with you. Gender and sexual identity are independent for most people's identities. Also, our locker rooms don't discriminate based on sexual orientation anyways. Get yourself an edumacayshun on what you're talking about before you go spoutin all sorts of ignorance.

    • Quail Man  

      Maybe I'm grasping at straws, but +1 for the thought that the NCAA should let trans athletes play on the teams consistent with their genders. As for the rest of this comment... what the Hell? "Free reign of the womens locker room?" What?

    • Reality.  

      Wow. Do you seriously go here? How the hell did you get in? My suspicion is that they had to balance out the curve somehow.

      I guess you must think you're pretty edgy, using words like "tranny." I bet you say things like "that's so faggy" and then idiotically insist that you have "nothing against queers."

      In conclusion: you are an idiot. Shut the fuck up until you actually know what you are talking about -- which, given your intelligence, will probably be never.

    • Ugh  

      It often seems like the only real consequence of Columbia's eleventh-hour attempt at trans activism in this ROTC debate is that under-informed jackasses now find it necessary and/or acceptable to throw the word "tranny" around in all (anonymous) university spaces.

  11. anon

    "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

    John Stuart Mill

  12. "how did you get in"  

    is that the Bwog equivalent of calling someone a Nazi?

    • ...  

      it's columbia's very own version of godwin's law... as internet comment threads grow longer, the probability of an ad-hominem involving the questioning of "how one could possibly have gotten past the admissions committee" approaches one.

  13. USMC

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

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