Conor Skelding covers the last of three hearings hosted by USenate’s Task Force on Military Engagement, held yesterday evening in Altschul Auditorium. These hearings present official forums for discussion on ROTC’s return to campus, and will influence the Task Force’s final report to the USenate.
Update: With these hearings now concluded, let us know what impact they’ve had on your opinions in our poll to the right.
Update: The audio recordings are now available for download via the Task Force website.
The final ROTC hearing ran half an hour over the allotted time last night, despite the organizers’ best efforts to stay on schedule. The lines for commenters were closed at 8:54 PM, but even past 9, many people were still waiting outside the auditorium to be admitted. A larger space than last week’s hearing, the Altschul Auditorium was packed, including an entire row of outside media. The intensity was palpable; the crowd was eager.
Provost Claude Steele offered opening remarks on informed engagement and appropriate discussion. “I think of myself as a ‘learner,'” he declared. He had been reading extensively on the issue, and encouraged everybody to be open to a fresh perspective. Steele commended the general proceedings, adding that he’s “proud that Columbia has the capacity to hold open forums on controversial issues … For the most part we do this is a civil way.” Should the discussion not be civil and open, he warned, the results would be considered less valid by the Senate.
Ron Mazor, student co-chair of the Task Force opened the mikes to the audience. He reiterated Steele’s call for civility, and reminded speakers that everything said that evening would be preserved for posterity on public record. “There’s media present, so please be aware.” A few chuckles.
His call for comments induced a mad a rush to the microphones. Around 25 people lined up at both the center and side microphones. No hoisted signs were visible, but several students wore matching red shirts and “No ROTC” signs on their chests.
Attendees raised concerns about the organization of the Task Force itself—a complaint notably absent from prior hearings. Speakers (from both sides, though overall more anti-ROTC than pro) argued that SIPA was the only graduate school voting, and the survey was undemocratic. Many called for greater “transparency” in the process of choosing the Task Force. Commenters pointed out that Professor Jim Applegate, a member of the Task Force, appears biased since he has openly supported the return of ROTC in the past, both as a signatory to several pro-ROTC statements and in the senate’s previous deliberations.
Several attendees spoke of the controversial comments and responses at last Tuesday’s hearing, often expressing solidarity with Anthony Maschek, the teased veteran who made national headlines. One commenter scolded the Post for smearing the entire process because of a few students’ reactions, and others criticized both the media and Columbia students for threatening any hecklers.
The audio recording of the hearing can be downloaded here.