In the wake of Harvard's invitation to Gen. Colin L. Powell to speak at Commencement, the full Faculty may vote tomorrow on the recommendations of the ROTC committee, which include a suggestion to discontinue paying the costs of supporting Harvard students enrolled in MIT's ROTC program.
After a hot debate over the ROTC committee's report during a meeting in November, the Faculty took no vote. But the University's invitation to Powell, who has expressed support for the military's ban against gays, has again put the report in the spotlight.
During a Faculty meeting earlier this month, Professor of English and Comparative Literature Barbara E. Johnson proposed that the Faculty meeting reopen discussion of the ROTC report. She will move at tomorrow's Faculty meeting that the professors endorse the report's recommendations.
"If it passes, it would be a way of Harvard expressing its objections to discrimination," Johnson said yesterday. Johnson's proposal to reopen the issue won the support of the Faculty Council last week.
The vote will come a full three years after the Faculty voted to sever ties with ROTC if no significant progress toward lifting the ban on gays was made within two years.
Last year, as the University sought a compromise on ROTC, the chair of the ROTC committee, Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba '53, began defending the report in October in a series of Faculty Council and full Faculty meetings.
At the time, it was unclear what effect the enactment of the committee's recommendations would have. Some faculty members expressed hope that then-President-elect Bill Clinton would stick to his promise of lifting the ban on gays in the military, rendering any Harvard action committed in protest of the ban moot.
President Neil L. Rudenstine, in remarks on the Powell invitation during the most recent Faculty meeting, expressed support for the conclusions of the report and strong opposition to the military's ban on gays.
"My own view is that the report we received last fall was an excellent report," Rudenstine said. "The recommendations it put forward are recommendations I myself could follow."
But even as a symbolic gesture strengthening the University's position on the ban, a vote on the ROTC committee's report will likely not be without friction. The topic of Powell's invitation itself was a subject of some debate in the Faculty two weeks ago, with Lee Professor of Economics Hendrik S. Houthakker supporting the choice.
Houthakker said in the meeting it was wrong to attribute the institutional views of the military to an individual like Powell.
And when the ROTC committee's report was originally debated in November, Thomson Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield '53 spoke up against the committee's conclusions on a political issue like gays in the military.
Johnson disputed that contention yesterday, saying that it is appropriate for the University, which has a policy of non-discrimination, to oppose the ban. Asked whether she expected debate on her motion tomorrow, she said, "I expect debate from Professor Mansfield."
Even if the Faculty makes a decision tomorrow, the issue will probably not die, as the debate travels out of University Hall and into student dorms. The committee's report was meant to resolve months of controversy surrounding the issue.
The Republican Club and the Undergraduate Council supported a status quo stance, keeping Harvard's ROTC participants at MIT and paying to support the program. The Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Association and the Civil Liberties Union of Harvard, however, called on Harvard to sever all ties with ROTC because of the military's ban on gays, bisexuals and lesbians.
The University-wide faculty committee's report concluded "that the status quo is unacceptable and that use of Harvard's general purpose funds to subsidize participation in are activity that excludes gay, lesbian and bisexual students...violates Harvard's non-discrimination policy and should be discontinued."
Joe Mathews contributed to the reporting of this story.
"[U]se of Harvard's general purpose funds to subsidize participation in an activity that excludes gay, lesbian and bisexual students...should be discontinued." ROTC committee report