The saga of ROTC at Harvard continues. the latest installment in the bumpy relationship between the University and the military training program is a reprieve by the University that will allow Harvard students to participate through 1995.
Currently Harvard accepts ROTC scholarships, allowing Harvard students to serve in the MIT unit. Yet, there has been consistent support from some faculty members for refusing the scholarships and severing all ties with ROTC.
The disagreement that makes ROTC at Harvard such a contentious issue is the military ban on homosexuals, a policy that has been modified--albeit vaguely--under the "don't ask, don't tell' compromise.
The University's indecision the ROTC issues has made matriculating to Harvard a risky prospect for those who have earned scholarships.
It is time for a fundamental change in Harvard's position on ROTC. If the University administration opposes the ban, it should evidence its displeasure by pressuring Congress and President Clinton, not by preventing Harvard students interested in military service and in need of the accompanying financial assassinate from participating in ROTC.
The Harvard administration, despite its opposition to some military policies, surely sees the need for a military and for qualified officers to serve in that military. Prohibiting Harvard students from participating is a misguided way of trying to change the military's policy on homosexuality.
Moreover, if the issues is discrimination--in this case against homosexuals--then the University needs to admit an inconsistency in its policies. Harvard, after all, accepts numerous scholarships from other groups and foundations that discriminate on the basis of race and gender. There is an obvious difference in rationale behind the discrimination; we find the exclusivity of a minority scholarship much more acceptable than ROTC's ban, for example, but discrimination is present is both cases."
And there seems to be another double-standard at play on Harvard's part. While student scholarships have been under constant threat, the other grants that Harvard receives from the military have not come under such intense scrutiny.
Lifting the military's ban on homosexuals is a good cause, and we support efforts in that direction. But limiting the options of Harvard students is not the way to express our concern. The proper targets of our disapproval are not the students who want to serve their country, but the elected leaders who control that country's discriminatory polices.
"From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death."
--Justice Harry A. Blackmun announcing his decision to oppose the death penalty, as quoted in The New York Times, Feb. 23, 1994. Blackmun's opinion has evolved since 1972 when he dissented on a United States Supreme Court decision that declared death penalty laws unconstitutional. Blackmun is 83 years old.