President Clinton yesterday announced a "don't ask, don't tell" compromise policy of the issue of gays in the military.
The new policy fell short of what many in the Harvard community had hoped for: completely lifting the current ban on gays in the armed services. It also failed to end the controversy over the University's participation in ROTC.
The new policy, which essentially agrees with that proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff last week, forbids questioning new recruits about their sexual orientation or from conducting inquiries solely of a member of the military.
But the new policy still maintains that homosexual conduct is grounds for separation from the military. It defines homosexual conduct as "a homosexual act, a statement by the service member that demonstrates a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts or a homosexual marriage or attempted homosexual marriage."
And military commanders are allowed to order investigations if they receive "credible information" that a military employee has engaged in homosexual conduct.
Harvard, which maintains anti discrimination policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, has grappled with the problems caused by the ban on gays in the military due to its ties to ROTC for several years. Since the mid 1960s Harvard pays MIT to provide training for Harvard students on ROTC scholarships.
This past fall, a University Committee on ROTC issued a report recommending that, because of the ban on gays, Harvard end its association with ROTC.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted at a meeting this spring to approve most of the report's recommendations. President Neil l.. Rudenstine has personally written letters to Clinton, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) urging them to end the ban.
Rudenstine, though is currently out of town. Provost Jerry R. Green, who was attending a meeting of the Board of Overseers, the larger of Harvard's two governing boards could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Harvard spokesperson Peter Costa said yesterday he had no statement to release from the Harvard administration.
Professor of Law Daniel J. Meltzer, a member of the Committee on ROTC, said the group had not discussed what the University should do in the event of a compromise policy, or what such a policy would have to include to allow Harvard to retain its ties to ROTC.
"We didn't really spend much time trying to issue prophecies about what the government might do, "he said We didn't even know at that point whether Clinton would be elected.
Committee chair Sidney Verba '53, who is pforzheimer university professor, also said last week that the committee had not discussed possible routes to tae in the event of a compromise. "If the policy looks like something that opens the possibility that students who are gay can participate in the military, then it might be okay," he said. "Certain versions have seemed to me to remain discriminatory."
Harvard gay activists said yesterday that they disapproved of the new policy.
"I realize that our of political necessity some sort of compromise was necessary," said School of Public Health Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Organization member of the Harvard Leadership Council of gay, bisexual and lesbian campus groups, "But I don't think the compromise language is morally acceptable."
Fellow Leadership Council member Charles L. Outcalt, a member of the Divinity School GABLE, the school's gay, lesbian and bisexual student organization, said he was not really surprised that Clinton failed to end the ban on gays in the military.
Outcalt said he thought the policy could not possibly work for both the military and the gay and lesbian men and women serving in it. "If the goal is unit cohesion. I think lying to your fellow soldiers destroys unit cohesion," he said, "If it does work, it will be bad for the military."
Outcalt has been organizing letter-writing campaigns this summer aimed at members of Congress, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin L. Powell and Clinton urging the removal of the ban, he said.
He said he plans to continue writing letters, mostly to Congress, and will encourage some friends to write letters as well.
But he also said he thinks that the issue of gays in the military will move more to the background at both Harvard and in the nation. "Many lesbians and gays are eager to get to other issues...We can fight this, but it's not the only fight," Outcalt said. "We don't want to pour sand down a hole,"
This story was compiled with wire dispatches