Don't Limit Student Options

DISSENT

It's ironic that in fighting the military's discrimination against gay students, the staff calls for a response that would discriminate against all students who want to join the armed forces.

ROTC is the main avenue for college students who hope to join the military. With the defense budget shrinking, other options are uncertain at best. For many who hope to become officers, it's ROTC or nothing.

If ROTC were to disappear at Harvard, prospective students would have to choose between a Harvard education and a desire to serve their country. It's no surprise that members of the staff have no interest in military service themselves; if they did, they might see the injustice in taking away a career option for future students.

Moreover, there are far better ways of expressing the University's opposition to the ban on gays than by restricting the activities of Harvard students. A policy by senior University administrators of publicly and vocally opposing the ban would be at least as effective. This is, after all, the type of response the staff lauds from President James Bryant Conant on the issue of McCarthyism.

Boycotts, divestment and disassociation are appropriate measures for demonstrating opposition when the targeted institution is wholly illegitimate (the former South African government comes to mind). The U.S. military is hardly such an institution. Surely, the staff also sees the vital national need for the armed forces to attract the best possible recruits, despite the gay ban.

Finally, the students who comprise Harvard's ROTC contingent by and large oppose the ban on gays themselves. As members of the military, they are more likely than other officers to demand a liberalization of its policies. Thus, ironically, in the staff's overzealous attempt to do what is right, it would suppress the efforts of those students who dream of joining, and changing, the military.

David L. Bosco '95, J. Francisco Famadas '96, Stephen E. Frank '95, Jeffrey N. Gell '97, John C. Mitchell '96, Jonathan Samuels '94, Brad E. White '95