Last night, Conor Skelding stopped by the second of three hearings organized by USenate’s Task Force on Military Engagement.  These hearings mark the preliminary stage of the USenate investigation into ROTC’s potential return. Students of CC, BC, GS, SEAS, and SIPA will soon receive a poll by email.

Good turnout at at last night’s hearing! Unlike the underpopulated first hearing, last night’s attendees filled the center section of Havemeyer 309, the wings, and most of the back. Supporters of ROTC’s return appeared to make up a slight majority. Even the Post sent a photographer to capture all the action.

The hearing opened with a warning/reminder from student co-chair Ron Mazor, to debate difficult topics “politely,” perhaps recalling the cattiness of some of last week’s participants. The audience generally respected his wishes until the end of the evening, when opposition speakers heckled and shouted at a GS veteran revealing his take on the realities of Afghanistan and combat.

In her opening remarks, Dean Moody-Adams seemingly declared her support for ROTC’s return. “Should the question not be, ‘How can we have ROTC on campus?’ but, ‘How can we not invite them back?” MiMoo asked. Columbia, she believes, can produce “superior citizen-soldiers” through the Core. She shared thoughts on just war theory and her experiences at Cornell, where she oversaw all three branches of the ROTC. A summary of the evening’s arguments follows.

General arguments in favor included:

  • The military can diversify and add to the collective experience at Columbia.
  • Columbians should be allowed to serve their nation.
  • There is a civilian-military divide which must be mended.
  • By exposing ROTC cadets to LGBTQ students, the military can be changed from the inside-out.
  • The military is a policy-tool of the civilian government, not a policy maker.
  • By bringing the ROTC to Columbia, the military can be socioeconomically diversified.

Arguments against were more limited than last time:

  • Transgender people are still discriminated against and barred from military, this would directly oppose Columbia’s nondiscrimination statement.  This was the primary argument used throughout the night.
  • Columbia will no longer be a safe haven for trans students should the discriminating military arrive.
  • There is no evidence for changing the military from the inside working–that earns soldiers courts martial.
  • The military recruits and preys upon low-income students.

The audio recording of the hearing can be downloaded here. The final town hall is scheduled for Wednesday, February 23rd, in 417 IAB (Altschul Auditorium), 8-10 PM.