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ROTC Hearings to Begin Tomorrow

The USenate’s ROTC Task Force‘s first town hall style hearing  will be held tomorrow night, from 8 – 10 PM in 417 International Affairs Building (Altschul Auditorium)Sharyn O’Halloran, Chair of the Senate Executive Committee, will be making the opening remarks.

The point of the hearings is to “hear the community voice,” said Ron Mazor, Law ’12 and Student Co-Chair of the Task Force. He kindly explained to Bwog how the hearings themselves are going to work. A near-identical procedure was followed in 2005:

  • There will be a 2.5 minute time limit per comment.
  • A timer and several prompts will be projected on the back of the room to confine the conversation to the issue at hand.
  • The comments will be transcribed and published on the Task Force’s website. Individuals may request to have their comments redacted if they are not comfortable with making them public. Update: The Task Force have changed their mind, and decided against redacting records and transcripts from the hearings. They explained that since public media are allowed into the event “it is unrealistic to suggest that comments made during the public hearings will be insulated from public record.”
  • The Co-Chairs of the Task Force will moderate the discussion. They will not reply to comments, and neither will O’Halloran.

Over the weekend it was confirmed that Roosevelt Montás, Associate Dean of the Core Curriculum, will be the faculty co-chair of the Task Force. He is not a University senator (but he does have a great taste in music). The other three faculty members are Peter Awn, Dean of GS; Jim Applegate, Astronomy Professor and co-chair of the 2005 task force; and Julia Hirschberg, of CS. Of these four faculty members, only Applegate’s name appeared (in favor of return) on the rival statement/petitions issued on NROTC 2008.

In December, we compiled a comprehensive guide to the issue of ROTC and its history at Columbia, which might provide useful background for those interested in attending. We’ll also be covering each of the hearings.  Mazor expects at least 6 of the 9 members to attend, but says the full Task Force may not be able to make each hearing. He also noted that submissions to the task force email will also be made public record, again allowing for individuals to redact. They will be released throughout February, and the first batch is expected to be online by Thursday. Mazor described the volume of e-mails as “pretty fair.” He estimated the Task Force had already received about 50 submissions via e-mail— “a steady trickle every day. I’m very happy that its being used and people are reaching out to us.” You can offer your input at

The next hearings will be held on:

  • Tuesday, February 15, 2011 – Focused on the undergraduate population
    Opening remarks by Michele M. Moody-Adams, Dean of Columbia College
    309 Havemeyer Hall, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
  • Wednesday, February 23, 2011 – Focused on faculty and graduate students
    Opening remarks by Claude M. Steele, Provost and Dean of Faculties
    417 International Affairs Building (Altschul Auditorium), 8 PM – 10 PM

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  • whotf care says:

    @whotf care DADT is gone. Just bring ROTC back already.

    1. ... says:

      @... ROTC was banned during the vietnam war because of the illegal actions of the military. We are still in the same situation but just with a different war. Why are we even considering bringing back ROTC?

      1. Claire says:

        @Claire It was technically never “banned.” See for some useful context.

        1. Correcting Diane Mazur says:

          @Correcting Diane Mazur See

          However, on the road to the future there has been an attempt to re-write history in a New York Times op-ed by Diane Mazur that suggested that there are “no universities that ban ROTC”:

          “While Harvard is often described as “expelling” ROTC in 1969, the story is more nuanced. After the military refused to meet Harvard’s standards on academic coursework, the faculty voted to relegate the program to an extracurricular activity, and the military decided to leave.”

          This account is so incomplete that it is misleading. Although it is legalistically correct to say that top colleges such as Harvard didn’t “ban” ROTC in the 1960s, the colleges knowingly created conditions under which ROTC could not remain legally. In 1969, Harvard and other colleges, upset over the Vietnam war, cancelled faculty appointments and course listings for ROTC, thereby running afoul of the provisions in the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964.

  • Hold up says:

    @Hold up isn’t that Epstein’s wife? what happened with the case?

  • fait accompli says:

    @fait accompli We all know Columbia is going to invite ROTC back. Do we really need to go through all this?

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum Unclear as to what “inviting” ROTC to campus means because we’ve never banned them. I’m also not into the fact that the official page for the Advocates of the ROTC outright lies about the existence of a ban. (

      The ROTC’s senior leadership have also made no official public statements regarding their desire to return to Columbia. It would be an incredibly costly and irresponsible move on their part at a time of an unprecedented defense budget drawdown. The closest thing to an official public statement happens to be Adm. Mike Mullen when he was at Columbia last year: “..There are limits to how many we can actually create because we’re a much smaller force than we were way back when. Even now, as we have universities or colleges that come in across the country that want to create an ROTC unit from any service, it isn’t – we can’t just snap our fingers and make it happen because we’re limited into where we get our accessions and how many we can create. ”

      I’ll see it as “fait accompli” or whatever if the ROTC presented a sustainable and feasible budget estimate, but again, as Adm. Mullen said a lot of colleges want this and there are huge resource considerations to think about. At a time when they are eliminating redundancies and creating efficiencies (I’m paraphrasing from Secy. Gate’s speech at the Pentagon in January), why would they establish another unit given that there are already units that serve ROTC students from Columbia? (

      The military also violates our nondiscrimination policy, which prohibits discrimination of sex and gender.

      Of course, I could be misconstruing the whole issue, so if someone would like to dispute me and claim that they are in fact banned, that inviting them won’t violate our policies towards transgender members of the community, and that they really have expressed a concrete and thoughtful desire to “return,” please go ahead.

      “In the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other University-administered programs, it does not discriminate against any person or permit the harassment of any student or applicant on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, pregnancy, religion, creed, marital status, partnership status, age, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, military status, or any other legally protected status.”

      1. Columbia ban of ROTC says:

        @Columbia ban of ROTC Advocates for Columbia ROTC is correct that Columbia banned ROTC. However, you could argue ACR could be more precise by saying Columbia de facto banned ROTC.

        In 1969, Columbia, with a toxic anti-military atmosphere on campus, cancelled faculty appointments and course listings for ROTC, thereby running afoul of the provisions in the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964. That law specifies:

        “No unit may be established or maintained at an institution unless the senior commissioned officer of the armed force concerned who is assigned to the program at that institution is given the academic rank of professor… and the institution adopts, as a part of its curriculum, a four-year course of military instruction … which the Secretary of the military department concerned prescribes and conducts.”

        Blaming the military for complying with the 1964 law after Columbia knowingly removed the legal basis for ROTC is unfair. Leaving out the 1964 law from the history of ROTC in the 1960s is a serious omission since it ignores the fact that Columbia knowingly removed the legal basis for ROTC, and thereby left the military no option under the law but to leave.

        A de facto ban of ROTC is a ban. Therefore, it is Columbia’s responsibility to take the necessary first step towards restoring Columbia ROTC by inviting ROTC to Columbia.

        What might the military’s response be to Columbia’s invitation to ROTC? Consider what Admiral Mike Mullen (Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff) said in Nov 2010 at Harvard: “I think it is incredibly important to have ROTC units at institutions like this. I think President Faust has made it very clear and I certainly would do all in my power to make that happen.” Institutions like Harvard include Columbia. It’s a process, but we can make it happen.

        1. just wait says:

          @just wait Well, we’ll all see what happens in a few months, when Columbia formally invites ROTC back to campus. Hopefully after DoD takes the only pragmatic option and decides not to spend a fortune to operate a new program for 10 students, we can finally put to rest the idea that schools like Columbia have “banned” ROTC, whether de facto or de jure. The fact of the matter is that it made no sense for DoD to keep ROTC programs at these schools in the 60s and it makes no sense for them to do so now. Of course, there’s no reason for Columbia and the other schools not to formally recognize ROTC not that the War in Vietnam is over and DADT is repealed (though the military still discriminates against transgender people), so Columbia and the other schools should certainly take steps to formally recognize them. But it’s only going to be symbolic; DoD is not foolish or rich enough to start up new programs at schools where the vast majority of the student body has no interest.

          1. we'll see says:

            @we'll see You’re a rare person who argues DoD isn’t “rich enough” to do, well, anything. Columbia ROTC isn’t a multi-billion, or even multi-million, dollar research/development program. Assuming Columbia cadets aren’t issued their own tanks and fighter jets, the military can afford Columbia ROTC. It’s all in the budgeting.

            It’s hard to predict student interest for a campus ROTC using current circumstances. The damaged status of ROTC at Columbia after 1969, alienation from poor exposure, distance and poor access in urban terms, and lack of institutional assistance likely deter most Columbia students from seriously considering ROTC. It’s simply unfair to judge Columbia students for not joining an ROTC program that isn’t there. We first have to plant the seed in order to grow the tree – building up ROTC student numbers at Columbia first requires ROTC on campus. Then, as Columbia ROTC is nurtured into a fully integrated and supported part of the university, Columbia ROTC student numbers will grow over time. That’s just common sense. Roughly one-fourth of the undergraduate population is renewed every year. After ROTC is established on campus and properly advertised, eventually every student applying to Columbia will know about the ROTC program on campus.

        2. Alum says:

          @Alum The ROTC has not to date issued an official proposal or positive statement to return to Columbia University. Columbia. University. Not general statements about “institutions like Harvard.”

          Just because Adm. Mullen thinks its important, as well as expressing that he would do everything in his power to make it happen, it is not the same as it being feasible or likely. Also, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs does not actually have any power over it. He or she only has authority over combatant commands.

          Again, you haven’t addressed my primary arguments at all. Neither Lee Bollinger nor any official representatives of the ROTC have claimed publicly and officially that there is a ban. Neither have you addressed the fact that this will violate our equal opportunity and nondiscrimination policy, or the fact that there is no official plan or desire by the ROTC to open up a potentially expensive program on campus. In fact, in 2005, in defending the University Senate’s vote not to establish an ROTC program, Lee Bollinger wrote to the Wall Street Journal standing by the decision to uphold our university’s nondiscrimination policy and said that “The university has an obligation, deeply rooted in the core values of an academic institution and in First Amendment principles, to protect its students from improper discrimination and humiliation.” (

          According to the proposed FY11 budget for the Department of Defense, ROTC has been reduced by 3.3% from 143 million in FY10 to 138 million, so to rephrase my argument, is the ROTC in a reasonable and responsible position to be expanding itself given these fiscal realities? I am looking at this from both from a position of fiscal stewardship and responsibility, as well as principle. I have provided factual evidence (in the form of a budget statement, as well as the sheer absence of official supporting evidence on the part of the ROTC supporters), as well as an argument on the basis of adherence and compliance to university regulations. I still am not convinced about the strength of your argument.

          And on an entirely different matter entirely, Columbia will never accept courses the ROTC offers as part of its official curriculum. I really don’t see this happening, and the faculty who have the authority to review these sorts of issues will raise questions of rigor, and will balk at losing their autonomy over instruction–because as you mentioned, the Secy. of the specific branch would have control over the coursework and its operations. To be given an academic rank of professor requires a certain amount coursework within an academic context–at the very least a few years of graduate study. Now, to be clear, I’m not making judgments about the qualifications of ROTC instructors–it does seem obvious that military officers would be experts in becoming military officers and to teach these ideas and values. I am merely making an an observation about how academic appointments are generally handled at this university.

        3. Alum says:

          @Alum Re: Columbia ban of ROTC – 6 February 2011 at 11:26 PM

          Also, thanks for lifting portions of your comments without attribution. If there’s any intellectual disingenuousness here, its on your part, not mine. It’s also disingenuous to write comments under different names and to forget about the comment tracking feature.

          1. you got me says:

            @you got me Actually, I count on the tracking feature to use the name field as a subject header instead. You got me: I plagiarized. Thanks for attributing for me.

            Neither Columbia nor the military are static institutions. Given their missions, one hopes these particular institutions are able to respond to a changing world by adjusting on their own and with each other as partners. Priorities change. Policies change. Budgets change.

          2. Michael Segal says:

            @Michael Segal As the author of the “Re-legitimizing ROTC” article, I’m not particularly bothered by someone giving the URL in one post and quoting text in another post in the same thread (particularly in a blog in which adding a URL can send a post into moderation limbo). The purpose of the article was to correct the record. And if I re-used the text myself I would certainly not consider that to be plagiarism.

          3. Michael Segal says:

            @Michael Segal Also, the author of the “Blueprint for Columbia ROTC” article had explicit prior permission to re-use content from the “Re-legitimizing ROTC” and “Blueprint for Harvard ROTC” articles, since he was involved in the discussions that led to those articles and they were to some degree a group effort. So there is no issue of plagiarism in that similarity.

        4. Michael Segal says:

          @Michael Segal I agree that it is more accurate to write that Columbia “effectively barred ROTC programs from campus” and took the liberty of changing the wording at the page to reflect that.

  • billy says:

    @billy I find your claim to be championing the interests of transgendered individuals as the basis for your continued opposition to ROTC to be disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. It is merely an excuse for you to grab onto to find something-anything-to shield your anti-military bias.

    Thank you, however, for posting CU’s nondiscrimination policy. It merely proves my point that your opposition is intellectually dishonest. If the military were to allow transgendered individuals tomorrow, you’d still claim the military was ‘not in compliance’ with CU’s policy because the military would not permit the following individuals to enlist, and therefore in your mind, continue to ‘discriminate’ against:
    1. Members of al-Qaeda on the basis of ‘creed’
    2. Quadripelegics on the basis of ‘disability’
    3. Citizens of foreign countries on the basis of ‘national origin’
    4. Octogenarians on the basis of ‘age’

    So I’m calling out your ballyhooed championing of the ‘transgendered cause’ for what it is – an intellectually dishonest excuse, and the first of many excuses to come if it were entertained.

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum My last roommate was transgender and a post-doc at Columbia, and I identify as LGBT, and I socialize with a lot of queer and trans people so I don’t really think I’m being intellectually disingenuous. But on the other hand, simply championing the interests of the transgender community shouldn’t be limited to trans people alone.

      The nondiscrimination policy wasn’t a political or idealogical point–it was a factual one, and I believe it’s a legitimate challenge to the claims of the ROTC supporters.

      What is intellectually disingenuous is taking my argument and framing it to make me out to be a liberal p.c. diversitynik.

      The Americans with Disabilities act (which is how disabled persons are classified under our university antidiscrimination policy) when referring to public entities only applies to state and local government, not on the Federal/military level, so I would guess that the ROTC is exempt from these requirements as well. The ROTC does not discriminate against citizens of foreign countries because they allow non-citizens to apply. If I wanted to take it to the next level, like you seem to think I want to do, then you’d probably believe that I’d support Columbia banning government financial aid because it discriminates against non-citizens who cannot register for selective service.

      Octogenarians may certainly apply for ROTC, because the age limit can be waived, but acceptance to the program may be a challenge because it is my understanding you must pass a physical test or drill. Finally, when you’ve reached the point of providing material resources to an FTO like Al-Qaeda, this will result in serious legal ramifications of which gaining entrance to the ROTC would be the least of your concern.

      For the record, I am not anti-war or anti-government and I have been a first responder. I’ve applied to join a state national guard support unit, but the armory in East Harlem is too far and inaccessible from the West side.

      1. Really? says:

        @Really? By the way, some of my best friends are LGBT too. I say this because it naturally bolsters the reference authority of whatever follows next.

        I believe Columbia should not host a Catholic chaplaincy on campus because the Catholic church is also not in compliance with the CU nondiscrimination policy. By only permitting priests who are unmarried and celibate (except in certain rare Eastern-rite practices, and even then married priests are generally unable to rise to the episcopacy), the Church discriminates on the basis of “marriage status”. Oh, and the whole “no salvation outside the Catholic Church” thing is discriminatory on the basis of religion.

        1. Alum says:

          @Alum But the Catholic church doesn’t want to offer campus programs where Columbia students can get a scholarship if they become priests, and to have this program made official through academic recognition in the form of professorships and course listings.

      2. CU non-discrimination policy and ROTC says:

        @CU non-discrimination policy and ROTC It’s not clear that hosting ROTC on campus would in fact conflict with Columbia’s non-discrimination policy.

        The non-discrimination policy states that “Columbia University is committed to providing a learning environment free from unlawful discrimination”. The key phrase is “unlawful discrimination”. That makes sense because any area of Columbia that requires meeting an entry standard above general admission requirements is discriminating. As long as the entry standard is lawful, the university has discretion to discriminate in that case. In the case of ROTC, the US military’s transgender policy is lawful, not “unlawful discrimination”.

        ROTC would not harm transgender students. The addition of ROTC on campus would not subtract nor replace anything that currently exists for transgender students. Normally, some ROTC courses are made available to all students, including transgender students. ROTC would not be a separate zone on campus that allows discriminatory harassment of transgender students. ROTC cadre and participating students would be held to the same standards of behavior as all Columbians. A transgender student should feel as safe in ROTC offices as anywhere else on campus.

        For what it’s worth, “military status”, which covers ROTC students, is also a protected category in Columbia’s non-discrimination policy.

        1. Alum says:

          @Alum A “commitment” implies an aspiration, not actual practice. It’s the difference between can and will (and shall and would, etc.) In this case, if we really want to parse it out:

          “Consistent with this commitment,” which is the first part of the sentence: “it is the policy of the University not to tolerate unlawful discrimination” does not mean it excludes all other clauses. It simply means its a part of the earlier commitment, but not to the exclusion of all of its other principles. This is why many corporations are “committed” to sustainability, or “committed” to promoting diversity in their workforce, but there will actually be a gap between stated ideals and practices on the ground.

          In any case, if your interpretation is correct, then it would have been self-evident and there wouldn’t be this ROTC debate in the first place, now would there? So if you are claiming that Lee Bollinger has misinterpreted his own university’s anti-discrimination policy, because he should hire you as his general counsel.

          As a side note, according to the University Chaplain and the Student Governing Board, Catholic Ministries and other SGB groups cannot discriminate against other religions or sexual orientations in their activities on and off campus. If there were a group formed specifically for anti-gay activities who wanted university recognition they would have to accept gay members.

          1. CU non-discrimination policy and ROTC says:

            @CU non-discrimination policy and ROTC I don’t mind sharing my interpretation of the issue, but I would suggest consulting with the universities that have equivalent non-discrimination policies to Columbia’s and already host ROTC. Anyway, I don’t imagine a university that already intermingles with a single-sex college will find it too challenging to welcome ROTC into the family, too.

          2. Alum says:

            @Alum The Barnard College as a similar arrangement to ROTC argument has already been addressed. Gender discrimination has been upheld by the Supreme Court if it pursues a legitimate interest of the state. The same argument goes for age discrimination for things like drivers licences–the state has a legitimate interest in only allowing drivers above a certain age to drive because of public safety. The Supreme Court has said that gender discrimination must show important government objectives and goals.

            If Barnard’s admissions policies were somehow challenged, they would argue that the state has a legitimate objective and goal in allowing single-sex colleges for women (using the logic for affirmative action, which has been held to be constitutional and has been used by other women’s colleges before when they were challenged in courts).

            So you’ve brought up cases of discrimination which you believe that Columbia tolerates, including the Catholic Church, by disability, national origin, gender and age. And I have given points that address each of these.

            You still haven’t responded to the primary points of my argument. 5 or 6 responses later, you still cannot prove conclusively that the ROTC has said they will officially fund and support opening at Columbia, that they are in fact banned from operating here (according to either them or anyone in the senior levels of our university), and that the university does not believe they violate our nondiscrimination policy.

          3. Have patience - one step at a time says:

            @Have patience - one step at a time Neither Columbia nor the military are static institutions. They can’t be and they aren’t. To fulfill their missions and responsibilities, these particular institutions must be able to evolve and adapt to a complex changing world on their own and by working with partners. As in any large institution, evolution is a process. People, like us, drive the progressive reform of the institutions. The world changes. Circumstances change. Priorities change. Policies change. Budgets change. People change.

            Have patience – let’s take one step at a time in their turn. We’re now within the beginning stage of the process where Columbia decides to invite ROTC.

            President Obama, SecDef Gates, and JCS Mullen have signalled encouraging interest for restoring ROTC in the Ivy League, but you’re correct that they have not set forth a detailed plan. Doing so would be premature and presumptive by them at the current stage, since the initial offer is Columbia’s to make. Columbia’s offer to the military would trigger the next stage, ie, the dialogue and negotiation that may – or indeed, may not – lead to acceptance. When we’ve reached the stage where the military answers Columbia’s proposal, the issues you raise will be addressed in their turn.

            Obviously, the military’s current budget does not account for a program that hasn’t been offered yet by Columbia, let alone exists in fact. Look, I haven’t known the schools I’ve attended, including Columbia, would admit me when I applied to them. I haven’t known my employers would hire me. Or, when I’ve been in charge, I haven’t known whether my recruiting efforts would succeed. Before I’ve asked them out, I haven’t known the girls would say ‘Yes’ or whether they would reorder their lives for a long-term relationsip.

            Maybe you’ve been lucky enough in life where everything and everyone has come to you with no surprises, no chances taken, no changes needed. But for the rest of us, people and institutions, starting new relationships means taking one step at a time and risking the safe known for the greater potential we envision in the unknown. Certainly, it could be that despite the encouraging signals from the military’s top bosses, their final answer to Columbia’s proposal could be ‘No’. Or an institutional reordering to start a new long-term relationship begins with ‘Yes’. Or, more likely, new intermediate steps may manifest with ‘Let us consider your proposal’. Either way, Columbia has make the offer for us to find out. That’s real life. Things change when you take a chance. Have patience with the process – one step at a time.

          4. Legal part says:

            @Legal part As far as the legal part, the case law on the military’s trangender policies is sparse, but what there is has has upheld the military’s policies. Distinct from ordinary employment anti-discrimination laws, the courts traditionally grant deference to the military’s personnel policies due to the military’s exceptional status and needs. The military simply is not an ordinary employer. For that reason, changes imposed on military personnel policies normally come from the legislature and/or the executive branch, not the courts.

            As shown by the DADT rulings before DADT was repealed by Congress, you’re correct that the deference does have a limit – courts do not give the military a free pass to discriminate in its policies. But the bar is both different and higher for the courts to decide that a military policy is unlawfully discriminatory. By the time the law was repealed, it was clear that DADT, whose very premise was that sexual orientation should not bar military service, was unjustified. In contrast, the issues surrounding the military’s transgender policies are complicated and nuanced, and murky at best. The military’s transgender policies are at least justifiable, although one can fairly argue some particular policies could be finer tuned. As a legal controversy, however, the transgender issue doesn’t rise to DADT.

            As far as Barnard – exactly my point. I’m certainly not arguing for Columbia to ban Barnard. Barnard serves as an especially clear and obvious illustration of the difference between lawful discrimination and unlawful discrimination. Barnard’s admissions policy is an example of lawful discrimination at Columbia.

          5. Have patience - one step at a time says:

            @Have patience - one step at a time Speculating on why SecDef Gates and JCS Mullen have made encouraging statements about ROTC return to the Ivy League and the NE in general:

            See ROTC in New York City: An Untapped Resource:

            You may also recall SecDef Gates’ speech at Duke University about the civil-military gap:

      3. Michael Segal says:

        @Michael Segal The point about the Americans with Disabilities law not applying to the military and therefore not to Columbia is surprising in light of the history of the DADT issue. DADT was an actual law applying to the military, and the same argument would claim that DADT was therefore of no relevance to Columbia’s nondiscrimination statement. Such arguments didn’t convince the majority at Columbia.

        A more reasonable approach is to agree that the university and the military are different in many ways and there is no reason to expect the two to have identical policies on what constitutes discrimination.

  • ... says:

    @... i like turtles.

  • CU non-discrimination policy and ROTC says:

    @CU non-discrimination policy and ROTC I don’t mind sharing my interpretation of the issue, but I would suggest consulting with the universities that have equivalent non-discrimination policies to Columbia’s and already host ROTC. Anyway, I don’t imagine a university that already intermingles with a single-sex college will find it too challenging to welcome ROTC into the family, too.

    1. CU non-discrimination policy and ROTC says:

      @CU non-discrimination policy and ROTC ^Oops. Meant as reply to Alum.

  • Can we says:

    @Can we have some of these comments entered into the public record on the issue, some of them are well informed

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum I will be formally entering my comments into the public record through the committee. Thanks for the advice!

    2. @Can we says:

      @@Can we You can take the initiative and e-mail the bwog comments to the ROTC task force for their public record. Send them to

  • Can we says:

    @Can we also make our comment and then leave, I’ve got a P-set due tomorrow.

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