Faculty Starts Debate On ROTC's Status

In response to lobbying from student opponents of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), the Faculty Council is reviewing Harvard's relationship with the program.

The review is in its preliminary stages, and members of the Faculty Council, the steering committee of the full Faculty, said they are unsure how it will end. But the Anti-ROTC Action Coalition (ARAC) is urging the Council to bar future ROTC drill meetings on campus and prevent the program from using athletic facilities, from tabling at registration and from participating in career forums.

"This is an organization which vocally and actively discriminates against a section of the population--one which the University claims to protect," said Jarrett T. Barrios '90-'91, a member of ARAC and the co-chair of the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Association. "I would like the University to take a moral stand on this issue."

Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence said in an interview last month that it was "conceivable" that that council's deliberations could result in the Faculty's first new legislation on ROTC since 1984, when the body voted to reimburse the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the costs of Harvard students participating in the program there.

ARAC began its lobbying efforts in November after the navy ROTC program based at MIT held a drill at Harvard.

Such meetings had actually taken place once a semester for a few terms before last fall, but the status of ROTC on campus has been subject to intense scrutiny ever since the Undergraduate Council last spring called for ROTC's return to Harvard. One week later, the student government reversed its decision in the face of large student protests.

ROTC left Harvard in 1969 after it became the focus of anti-Vietnam student unrest and was reduced to extracurricular status by Faculty votes.

Twenty years later, the debate has centered on homophobia in the armed services. Official military directives bar gays and lesbians from service. Between 1985 and 1987, the armed services discharged 4659 officers and enlisted personel for being gay or lesbian, according to an article in the National Journal.

According to Faculty legislation passed in April, 1969, ROTC on campus must "operate as other ordinary extracurricular activities with no special privilege or facilities granted either by contract or informal arrangement."

But ARAC members charge that ROTC has been granted "special privilege" because it has held official functions on campus while not complying with the anti-discrimination pledges other officially recognized groups must agree to.

Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 said that ROTC did not have official extracurricular status on campus, but said that the College had made "special provisions" to allow the drills to take place periodically. He said it was the same kind of arrangement which allowed the military to recruit on campus.

Jewett said that the drills are not held often, adding that he thought the current arrangement "was the sense of what the original [Faculty] legislation had intended."

And ROTC members said that their on-campus drills were being blown out of proportion.

Christina L. Ulses '90 said that ROTC meetings at Harvard were nothing more than lectures and were open to the public. "If the issue they are hiding under is the gay issue, gays can go to these lectures," Ulses said.

"I don't know what people thought went on there," said Jonathan H. Ebel '91, referring to the November ROTC session. "It was very benign."

ARAC member Jeanne F. Theoharis '91, a senior editor of the liberal magazine Perspective, said she was optimistic that the Faculty would modify its ROTC legislation.

"We have a pretty strong case," Theoharis said. "It's not really based on moral arguments as much as asking them to look at their own policies andsee a direct contradiction."

And Spence said some change was likely.

"The earlier legislation on ROTC refers to itin some form or other as being like anextracurricular activity. I'm not entirely surethat's helpful in the following sense: that whilein some respects it is, it's also involved inscholarship programs and other things," Spencesaid. "I think one can imagine at least statementsthat are designed to clarify what the thinking onthe issue is."

The Council began its review of ROTC at itslast meeting in December, and will continuediscussions during the spring