Rudenstine Should Cut ROTC Ties

To the Editors of The Crimson:

I am perplexed by President Neil L. Rudenstine's recent statements and positions regarding Harvard's commitment to nondiscrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and the president's apparent willingness to carve out an exception for the University's ties with the blatantly anti-gay Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).

President Rudenstine reacted strongly to the harassment incident that accompanied the publishing of the anti-gay Peninsula issue, and has said on many occasions, that he supports Harvard's nondiscrimination policy. The Faculty Council, after months of debate, affirmed these liberty values when it voted, as the representative body of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) in which the power to make curricular decisions is vested, to define Harvard's continued relationship with ROTC contingent on the group's eliminating its discrimination against gay people.

I must believe that President Rudenstine also envisions a time when people will be judged on their abilities and merits rather than their skin color, gender or love orientation. Then why has the president placed the ROTC issue back on the table? Is there anuthing Harvard must continue "thinking out," as President Rudenstine put it?

If ROTC legally excluded Jewish people, Latinos or Asian Americans, would President Rudenstine mull over maintaining a relationship with ROTC in the hopes of being the grand influencer of policy? Think about it. If ROTC egregiously discriminated against any other group of undergraduates, except gay ones, would Harvard still have official ties to the organization? Of course not. We gay people are second-class citizens in this country--because of U.S. and state laws--and in this university--because of Harvard's continuing relationship with ROTC.

Private citizens, administrators, faculty and students alike within the University have practically every right to believe, write and say whatever they desire about gay people. In fact, I would fight vociferously for these rights. Harvard's institutional ties to ROTC, however, do not touch on these First Amendment issues under any constitutional theory with which I am familiar.

President Rudenstine--or should I really appeal to the power-usurped FAS?--must decide if Harvard will, as a matter of policy, continue its relationship with ROTC, and, in the process, reinforce for every person of the Harvard community that gay people are second-class members.

If the University is truly committed to nondiscrimination, it will take action toward severing its ROTC ties, as the Faculty Council pledged in May 1990. If Harvard and President Rudenstine are opposed to all forms of discrimination against groups protected by Harvard's official nondiscrimination policy, but can make an exception in the case of gay people, by all means, continue to brandish the anti-gay ROTC sword. Remind us gay folks of our second-class status. At least Harvard does not give us gay people a lesser diploma on graduation day, just a few deeply injurious scars. Chad S. Johnson '89   Leverett House Tutor for bisexual gay and lesbian issues   Founder, Group United Against ROTC Discrimination