Last night, Conor Skelding attended the first of the three hearings organized by USenate’s Task Force on Military Engagement. These hearings mark the preliminary stage of the Senate investigation into ROTC’s potential return. Here’s his report:

The first public hearing by the Senate’s Task Force on Military Engagement was held in the IAB Altschul Auditorium, where the 50 or so attendees hardly filled the room.  Veterans, GS and graduate school students, alumni, and sign-laden CC students gathered in distinct groups to oppose policy change.

After an introduction by the Task Force and explanation of the rules, anyone affiliated with the University was allowed to speak. Although the hearing started off slowly, after five or so speakers, the atmosphere in the room grew intense. A ten minute break offered some pause for reflection, while the groups for and against repeal clearly divided up to plan for the second half.  As the night progressed, members of the ROTC opposition began to hiss and yell, prompting the moderator to warn, “No catcalls, please.”

Primary arguments against increasing the University’s engagement with the military were:

  • The military still discriminates against transgendered citizens.
  • In inviting the ROTC, Columbia would be supporting imperialistic military actions abroad.
  • The military has a record of misogynist sexual abuse.
  • The military recruits among low-income areas specifically.
  • Students should not be force to serve “as mercenaries” in exchange for their tuition.

Primary arguments in favor were:

  • The military is flawed, and Columbia students could change it from the inside-out.
  • There is a rift between civilians and service men and women which can be healed by having cadets on campus.
  • Students should have the option to join the ROTC on campus.

The next Hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 15th, in 309 Havemeyer Hall, 7:30-9:30 PM.