To the Editors of The Crimson:
As a member of both the Naval ROTC and Harvard communities, I have had the opportunity to hear many different opinions about the Undergraduate Council's ROTC resolution. Many people are making some solid arguments for and against an on-campus ROTC program. I must argue, however, that neither the Undergraduate Council nor Harvard University should endorse the various ROTC programs.
The council constitution and Harvard policy are promises not to endorse organizations that discriminate on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. In accordance with Congressional legislation (Title X, U.S. Code), the armed forces specifically prohibit women from holding certain jobs. Department of Defense regulations require commands to discharge homosexuals. When the council endorses a campus ROTC program, it violates its constitution and breaks a promise to us, its constituents.
Moreover, the military's broader values are antithetical to those of the Harvard community. According to the Handbook for Students, Harvard aspires to be a "community idealiy characterized by free expression, free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of others and openness to constructive change." After four years of contact with the Navy, I cannot fairly say that the NROTC program espouses those values. Any endorsement of a group without similar values weakens Harvard's claims to those defining characteristics.
There is an academic argument for studying military science on campus to which I lend my unqualified support. Harvard does well to offer courses in military policy and to provide forums for military speakers. Students are given an opportunity to understand military thinking, even if they disagree with it. An academic institution must not censure the study and discussion of any idea. However, we must distinguish between studying military science in the Government Department and sponsoring an organization on campus that actively discriminates against women and homosexuals.
I witnessed the "I am a faggot" incident that Mr. Henebry recounts in his letter to The Crimson (April 25). It took place at a Navy-sponsored orientation the summer prior to my freshman year (not on an MIT parade ground). A former Navy ROTC instructor ordered a classmate with a pierced ear to stand at attention and shout, "I am a faggot! I am a faggot!" Those of us who saw this were horrified; all the new recruit had done was show up to orientation with a pierced ear.
The instructor's behavior was abhorrent and warranted disciplinary action. It was also extraordinary. I have not seen a similar incident since then. But the Navy does regularly lose people to or dismiss people for homosexuality. At least two people from my class voluntarily left the program because they were gay. A former instructor also left for the same reason. The shame is that good leaders are denied the opportunity to serve in the armed forces beacuse of whom they love.
This commentary does not represent the views of the Navy or its ROTC program. Nor do I claim to speak for any other ROTC student. These are my own personal opinions. Each ROTC student has his or her own opinion of the events of the last few days. As members of an open, reflective university community, all faculty, students and staff have a responsibility to avoid stereotyping. One of the most terrifying things I have seen this week is broad-brush categorization of both student activists and students enrolled in ROTC programs. That should stop right now.
Maybe the ROTC programs will someday meet the criteria Harvard establishes for its affiliated organizations. If they do, Harvard and ROTC can talk then. But for now, Harvard's council should just sit and wait. David E. Carney '89 Midshipman, USNR-R