The controversy surrounding Harvard's participation in the ROTC program may not be solved by the announcement of President Clinton's new policy on gays in the military, those involved in the issue at the University said yesterday.
The announcement, expected to come this week, reportedly will be some version of a compromise allowing gays to participate in the military as long as they do not openly discuss their homosexuality.
The chiefs of staff, who have opposed lifting the ban completely, recently stated that they favor such a compromise, called a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
A report issued by the University Committee on ROTC and approved by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the late spring called for Harvard to stop funding MIT to train Harvard students participating in ROTC unless the ban on gays in the military was removed.
Clinton has set this Thursday as the deadline for a decision on gays in the military. But Harvard sources interviewed yesterday said it is unclear whether a compromise would be consistent with Harvard's anti-discrimination policy.
"To be honest, I don't know," committee chair Sidney Verba '53, Pforzheinier university professor, said. "It's murky"
The problem with a compromise solution, Verba said, is that the University committee on ROTC thought an all-or-noting strategy would be implemented.
"We wrote the report very explicitly--if the ban was not removed. Harvard should not continue to participate in ROTC," he said. "The report doesn't anticipate something falling halfway in between."
Verba said the committee would have to study any proposed Clinton policy very carefully to judge compliance with Harvard rules.
He said he would suspend judgment of the actual policy until it was issued, and said that the committee members hoped the ban would be lifted so that Harvard's participation in the ROTC program could continue.
But Verba said any compromise approved by the committee would have to be very "loose."
"Part of our answer will [depend on] what the reaction is in the gay community," he said. "Our committee would like to see the option of ROTC open for gay students who want to participate."
Kathryn L. Schnaible, head of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Association of Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay Graduate Students and a member of the Leadership Council of campus gay, lesbian and bisexual student and faculty groups, said she doubted if the gay community at Harvard would support "don't ask/don't tell."
"The reason we would oppose that type of solution is that the current policy is that a person may be thrown out of the military for admitting they are homosexual but not necessarily for committing homosexual acts," she said. "What it is, in effect, is a breach of freedom of speech."
In fact, Schnaibie said, she believes that such a compromise would be opposed to what the gay community has been working for.
"We feel it would not be an appropriate compromise," she said. "It prevents people from being open and honest about what they are--and that was our point in the first place."
Schnaible said she personally hopes Harvard will cease participation in ROTC unless the ban is completely lifted.
But she said there are some mixed feelings in the gay community at Harvard over the issue.
"Some people argue that to the extent it permits homosexuals to serve openly in the military, it may be a good thing and lead to further changes," she said. "It may become untenable to enforce [the ban on speech].