Protesting the Undergraduate Council's recommendation that Harvard restore special status for the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), approximately 75 students last night launched a campaign to educate students about what they said are serious problems with the council's decision.
Meeting in the Canaday Common Room upstairs from the council office, the group planned a series of events for this week designed to convince students that the council made the wrong decision, mainly because the military discriminates against gays and lesbians.
"I would hope and guess that if it were African-Americans or handicapped people or senior citizens or Hispanic people receiving such treatment, the [council] wouldn't tolerate the institution one bit," said Joseph H. Cice '88-89, co-chair of the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Association (BGLSA). "Why not with lesbians and gay men?"
The group decided in its two-and-a-half hour meeting to distribute informational flyers today and to stage a candlelight vigil this evening in front of the Kennedy School of Government, where the Rev. Jesse Jackson is due to speak, said BGLSA co-chair Joseph H. Cice '88-'89.
The students contacted Jackson's office yesterday to notify him about the controversy, Cice said.
Members of the groups said that they are planning a rally for tomorrow afternoon outside University Hall and "subsequent action targeted against against the [council]," said Robert Weissman '88-'89, head of Harvard Watch, a student group that polices University policy.
"A lot of people don't know what is going on," said Frances M. Impellizzeri '92, a member of Students for Creative Action. "The [council] didn't know what they were doing, or else they wouldn't have shown such insensitivity."
The protesters said they opposed the reinstatement of ROTC, not only because of the military's homophobia, but also because the military discriminates against women and minorities and discourages "openness and critical inquiry," according to a position paper written by Weissman and distributed at last night's meeting.
The undergraduate group of protesters also said they opposed the council's measure because ROTC courses would not meet Harvard's academic standards.
The council's recommendation, issued last Sunday, asks for "an ROTC program without academic credit on campus...so that Harvard undergraduates are not disadvantaged unduly and that the armed forces of the United States are insured a welleducated and diverse officer corps."
An ROTC member who attended the protest meeting said he supported the council's measure in part because a ROTC program at Harvard would make daily life more convenient.
E. Parker Waller '92, a member of the Navy ROTC, said that while he understood the discrimination objections of the students, he was aware that military policy was designed to maintain morale and to reduce the risk of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
"I sympathize that there is a sector of society that is being shut out, but the policy has a defense," Waller said.