On Sunday night, Undergraduate Council President David L. Hanselman '94-'95 ruled unconstitutional his own motion to donate $500 to the University's new ROTC fund. We breathed a sigh of relief that the council will not be using student's money to fund the University's most controversial program without their express permission.
Hanselman, in his own words the "sole and final arbiter in all constitutional matters," said that the "wasn't aware that in the [council constitution's] non-discrimination clause it said that the U.C. shall discourage discrimation on grounds of race gender and sexual orientation."
The council's Student Affairs Committee, which originally endorsed the donation proposal, betrayed the council's fundamental mission--to serve students, all students. According to the council's policy, student programs seeking grants should be open to all students. Hanselman said that "since an openly gay person cannot participate in ROTC, I guess the ROTC program does discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation."
Besides the issue of discrimination, the Student Affairs Committee spurned another kind of fairness when it approved Hanselman's resolution. Most student programs have to petition the council for grants; evidently, ROTC would not. In any event, the council should have consulted its student constituents before proposing funds for ROTC.
The $500 sum constitutes such a small portion of the University's ROTC contribution that we wonder why the committee bothered to form a resolution at all. The answer: Hanselman wanted to help ROTC participants who "are like second-class citizens on campus."
Hold on a second. ROTC students receive exactly the same services as other students; ROTC is an additional opportunity that the University is not required to provide.
In accounting for his actions, Hanselman added that he wanted to quell Harvard's reputation as the "Kremlin by the Charles." He clearly hasn't been reading his history books. When did the Soviet Union ever scrimp on he military? If Hanselman wanted to enhance possibilities for military service, perhaps he should have taken a cue from the Kremlin and proposed conscription.
If Hanselman feels so strongly about ROTC, we suggest that he make a contribution to the fund with his own money. Everyone has the capacity to contribute, but no student whose money already rests in the council's coffers should be forced to help the ROTC program.
"Someday, I'm confident that gays will be allowed in the military," Hanselman said. "If Harvard waits it out, the issue will resolve itself." We hope Hanselman and the council take his advice--sit this one out.