PROBABLY the most troubling aspect of the council's proposal to bring ROTC back on campus is that it violates its own constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. In that one respect, at least, the staff editorial is right on target.
However, the issue of homophobia in the military is not all that's at stake here. After all, the council's vaguely-worded constitution also prohibits what it terms "economic discrimination." And surely the current arrangement constitutes a violation of this principle: Harvard students enrolled in the Army branch of the ROTC program receive only 80 percent of the aid that their counterparts at MIT and other campuses do, and receive this aid for only three years instead of the full four.
Thus, the University already is involved in "economic discrimination" against students who are on ROTC. Moreover, the Pentagon is now considering making the amount of aid that students involved in the Navy and Air Force branches receive conditional on whether their schools sponsor ROTC on campus.
THE suggestion that Harvard would somehow lose its academic integrity and have to "forfeit control of what is taught in the classroom" by letting ROTC return to campus makes no sense. First of all, several prominent Ivy League institutions--such as Dartmouth, Princeton, and Pennsylvania--now have ROTC on campus, and few would claim that these schools have somehow become "militarized" and lost their academic credibility. Moreover, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences would never let ROTC "control an academic department." If the Pentagon insists on making such demands, the faculty will simply vote to keep it off campus.
Some claim that since ROTC students must take a prescribed set of courses, they are unfairly being "coerced" into taking an academic program whose validity is questionable. But most of the courses they must take (Physics, International Relations, Military Strategy) are already accorded academic legitimacy by several departments here. Moreover, plenty of other scholarship programs give money on the condition that the students who receive this aid will take courses in specific fields.
FINALLY, those who argue against the proposal to bring ROTC back to campus ignore the fact that it is, in effect, already here. Harvard already has "its hands dirty," since it allows students to participate in the program and, in fact, subsidizes MIT for teaching them. Thus, the University is currently getting a free ride off MIT in this respect.
Harvard's attitude is a condescending and troubling one. In effect, it says to MIT that "we're too high and mighty to sully ourselves with such a vile institution as ROTC, but as long you're willing to prostitute yourself, we'll send our ROTC students over to you and thereby keep ourselves pure."
The fact is that MIT provides us an easy but hypocritical way to soothe our consciences and at the same time feel we are being progressive by providing students with the financial aid they need. But it MIT did not have ROTC, or if it were two hours--instead of 20 minutes--away from the Harvard campus, the outcry we are now hearing would be silenced. The University would then simply have to allow ROTC official status on campus, as it could not flat out deny students such an important financial aid opportunity.
ROTC provides a badly-needed financial option for many middle- and lower-income students who would rather not be saddled with massive debt after graduation. Harvard's current aloof attitude is both duplicitous and insulting to students involved in the ROTC program and to all those highly-regarded universities that allow ROTC on campus.