Is Rudenstine's Plan a Solution or a Capitulation ROTC

President Neil L. Rudenstine's long-awaited recommendation on the festering issue of ROTC may raise as many questions as it answers.

Among them is whether the president's attempt to walk a fine line between warring camps is a real answer, or simply a cosmetic solution designed to silence criticism while changing little.

In a report released Wednesday and dated November 23, Rudenstine, who himself served in Army ROTC., calls for the University to create a pool of money funded by alumni contributions that would pay the ROTC administrative fee to MIT.

His recommendation is a compromise between ROTC opponents, who call for the University to stop paying for a program they say discriminates against gays, and the program's backers, who believe ROTC is a fundamental part of Harvard's offerings.

The University currently gives MIT about $130,000 annually out of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) budget to pay for the roughly 70 students enrolled in MIT's ROTC program.

Rudenstine's recommendation will be presented to the full Faculty on December 13 by Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles. To become policy, it must be approved by the Corporation, Harvard's seven-member governing board.

But the report does not explain how precisely the alumni fund will be administered, and ROTC opponents wonder whether Harvard's hands will truly remain clean if the money must pass through the University budget process.

Under Rudenstine's plan, the alumni contributions will go into a special restricted pool. Harvard will not be paying MIT with money from the general fund, as in years past.

"I don't see the difference between Harvard's paying funds out of its general fund to MIT's ROTC program and Harvard taking alumni donations and setting up a fund and paying checks out of that Harvard fund to the MIT ROTC program," says Jeff A. Redding '96, the ROTC project director for the Civil Liberties Union of Harvard (CLUH).

Rudenstine's statement says that "some individual graduates of Harvard College...have voluntarily come forward, unsolicited, and offered to commit sufficient incremental funds to pay the administrative fee to MIT for a period of at least three to four years."

The cost for ROTC is between $30,000 and $35,000 per class, the report says, putting the total pledged alumni contribution in the neighborhood of half a million dollars.

"These voluntary contributions would...no longer involve the support of ROTC through the unrestricted general funds available to support the university's own educational and other programs," Rudenstine writes in the report.

Rudenstine's deliberate vagueness has left ROTC activists confused and skeptical.

Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba '53, who chaired a 1992 ROTC faculty committee, says he has no idea who will administer the new fund. The Verba committee's report, which was endorsed by the full Faculty last spring, recommended that Harvard stop paying for ROTC.

Thomas A. Gerace '93, the chair of the Committee to End Discrimination by Harvard, which was created to urge Rudenstine to cut Harvard's administrative ties to ROTC, says he believes the University will be closely involved in the alumni fund.