ROTC Report Defends Compromise Proposal

Report Stakes Middle Ground

The student-faculty committee report on ROTC released yesterday attempts to strike a compromise and settle a debate that has existed in various forms since 1969.

But the committee's recommendation raises as many questions at it answers.

When the committee was first created last winter, many observers thought it had only two options. Harvard could keep the status quo, in which cadets travel to MIT for ROTC. Or the University could sever all ties with the program because its ban on gays violates the University's policy of non-discrimination.

After nine months of deliberations, the committee dug into technicalities and bypassed both options.

The compromise finds a way to exempt ROTC from the non-discrimination policy by ending Harvard payments to the program. Students would then be acting as individuals participating in an organization unaffiliated with the school.

"ROTC is unlike ordinary curricular offerings and extracurricular activities: it is not a program offered, controlled, or administered by Harvard," the report says. "It is not, therefore, squarely governed by thenon-discrimination policy."

Therefore, the committee decided that Harvardshould continue to accept scholarship money fromgroups that discriminate.

In doing so, the committee contradicted theFaculty Council's original ultimatum in 1990: thatHarvard would stop accepting ROTC scholarshipfunds if the military continued to discriminate.

Indeed, the report urges the University to"proceed vigorously" with negotiations with MIT"with the object that individuals could continueto participate in an ROTC program withoutfinancial or other direct support from Harvard."

The report does not say whether MIT, or theROTC program itself, would agree to its terms.ROTC officials contacted this week said they don'tyet know.

If both MIT and ROTC decide against picking upHarvard's share of the costs, students could stillparticipate in the program by paying the feethemselves.

Associate Director of Financial Aid Janet L.Irons says the University does not, and will not,reject money from a discriminatory program.

The University treats scholarships as gifts toindividual students, and does not scrutinize them.A moral dilemma about a scholarship's source is apersonal issue for the recipient, she said.

Irons said that as far as she knows, Harvardhas never rejected a scholarship simply because ofits source. "I haven't heard of us not takingone," she said.

And committee members warn that rejecting ROTCmoney would set a dangerous precedent: "intrusionby the University into the private choices ofstudents, acting as individuals, to form suchassociations, receive such support, or participatein such external activities would, we believe, beunacceptably paternalistic."

Currently, ROTC sends money to Harvard throughan agreement called "sponsored billing," Ironssaid. The ROTC program tells Harvard's billingoffice which students have received scholarshipsand requests a bill for the full amount. ROTC'spayment is then subtracted from each student'stuition charge.

Harvard has "sponsored billing" programs withother institutions that give multiple, substantialscholarships, such as AT&T; and Bell Labs.

The committee report still needs the approvalof the Faculty Council, the full Faculty, and theUniversity governing boards before Harvard cantake any action. President Neil L. Rudenstine hasvoiced tentative support of the proposal