ROTC Payments Debated

Four student leaders rehashed the perennial issue of Harvard's proper relationship with ROTC last night in a wide-ranging and spirited debate at the Institute of Politics.

The debate, sponsored by the Harvard Political Union, attracted a crowd of 120 but did not cover much new ground--the Harvard community has been struggling to come to terms with ROTC's ban on homosexuals for years.

The panelists and the audience were sharply divided over whether Harvard should continue paying MIT for the training of Harvard students enrolled in ROTC.

The event's most dramatic moment came when a student in the front of the audience stood and asked panelist and ROTC cadet Curtis L. Pierce '94: "Do you believe homosexuality is incompatible with military service?"

Pierce quickly replied, "No." Then he paused and qualified his answer by adding that gays should be permitted to serve provided their behavior does not adversely affect troop performance.

Much of the debate focused on whether Harvard's policy of nondiscrimination can be reconciled with the military's new "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays.

Panelist Dennis K. Lin '94, co-chair of the Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Students' Association, said Harvard could have continued supporting the ROTC program if President Clinton had kept his campaign promise to lift the military's ban on homosexuals.

"Support for the ROTC program is a tragic dilemma which could have been unnecessary," Lin said.

But Lin and panelist Jeff A. Redding '96, gay rights project leader for the Civil Liberties Union of Harvard, argued that the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy isn't very different from the original ban on gays.

The two other panelists argued that ROTC provides much-needed scholarship funds and that the new policy of nondisclosure is not discriminatory because it allows gays to participate in ROTC provided they do not disclose their sexual orientation.

Karen E. Boyle '94, president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Republican Club, called the new policy "a real advance for civil rights."

Pierce said he would not have been able to attend Harvard without the ROTC scholarship. In addition, he said theROTC program helps Harvard produce future militaryleaders.

"Harvard will lose some of the greateststudents on campus" if the ROTC program iseliminated, he said.

Pierce and other cadets in the audience saidthey supported homosexuals' right to serve, butargued that severing ties with ROTC would be afutile gesture.

But Redding said the University's relationshipwith ROTC "grants implicit approval and explicitsupport" to the military's discrimination againsthomosexuals. "The only way to support the ROTCprogram is to violate Harvard's ownnondiscriminatory policy," he said

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