Stop Funding Discrimination
.Students should ask for a refund on tuition dollars that fund ROTC.
What can you do with $20? You can spend a night out on the town in Boston, take someone to a Red Sox game, ride a cab to the airport...or contribute to Harvard's ongoing support of discrimination.
Harvard currently contributes $130,000 a year to MIT's ROTC program. That amounts to $20 a year for each of Harvard's 6,500 undergraduates. Because of ROTC's ban on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual students, this means that every Harvard undergraduate spends $20 a year of his or her own money to finance such discrimination. While that may be fine with some Harvard students, we believe that the majority of Harvard students find the military's ban on gays and lesbians repugnant and would not choose to finance such discrimination.
For that reason we invite members of the Harvard community to write or call President Neil L. Rudenstine and ask that their share of Harvard's financing of MIT's ROTC program be refunded.
Why is Harvard's underwriting of MIT's ROTC program problematic? There are several reasons:
1) ROTC, as part of the United States military service, bans openly gay men and lesbians from proudly serving their country.
2) Harvard's 1990 Non-Discrimination Policy states: "The principle of not discriminating against individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, veteran status, or disability unrelated to job or courses of student requirements is consistent with the purposes of a university and with the law." It is hypocritical for the University to associate itself with organizations that do not follow a principle of non-discrimination.
3) Harvard, by continuing to give money to MIT's ROTC program, is using University money to finance discrimination against its own students.
4) Harvard's Faculty Council voted three years ago to terminate Harvard's relationship with ROTC in two years if the military ban on gays and lesbians was not lifted. This decision was reaffirmed last spring.
Over the past several years, universities across the nation have added "sexual orientation" as another criterion for which discrimination is forbidden in a admissions, participation in school activities, employment, etc. But this long-needed change has resulted in hypocrisy being practiced every day at universities that have ROTC programs for finance their students' participation in another university's ROTC program. At these schools, resources, facilities and opportunities that are available to heterosexuals are denied to gay, lesbian and bisexual students in clear violation of these universities' non-discrimination policies.
Several standard arguments are raised to justify the continued relationships between universities and ROTC. First of all, a typical non-discrimination policy allows exemptions where discrimination is important for, in Harvard's words, "job performance or course of study requirements." According to one argument, ROTC's discrimination is permissible because homosexuality is an impediment to military performance.
Another argument contests that by cutting ties with ROTC the University is denying educational opportunities to students who cannot afford school without ROTC scholarships.
A third argument claims that, in order to be consistent, a university that severs ties with ROTC must also cut all ties with the Department of Defense--including the receipt of research grants.
Still, these arguments, while emotionally convincing, simply do not hold up under intellectual investigation.
To answer the first argument one must look no further than a recent and comprehensive report by the Rand Corporation (a think-tank with ties to the Department of Defense) on the effects of integrating gays into the military. This report, like the Navy's 1957 Crittenden Report, blows holes in the military's justifications for forbidding gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving in the armed forces. Once again, it demonstrates that sexual orientation, in itself, has no bearing on job performance.
With respect to the second argument, it should be emphasized that financial concerns are not exclusive to ROTC cadets. This argument exploits a common concern regarding financial resources. Furthermore, at least at Harvard, a large part of the discrepancy between ROTC's scholarships and the University's means-tested financial aid could be made up by transferring funds used to support ROTC to the University's Financial Aid fund. This would eliminate most financial concerns.
Finally, the Department of Defense does not discriminate against gay, lesbian and bisexual researchers when allocating grants. Moreover, in order to protect academic freedom, a university has no right to tell researchers from where they may receive their funds, no more than it has the right to tell students from which groups they may receive scholarship money. The key word here is "receive." With ROTC programs, the University is giving its resources to a discriminatory organization. That is exactly the opposite of the case with research grants.
Still, all these arguments fail to address the real issue. Either the University's policy on discrimination must change or ROTC must go. Yes, the military will lose talented people. But universities that continue to associate with ROTC give implicit approval and explicit support to an organization that already kicks out talented people every day.
We believe that Harvard should fund education, not discrimination. We hope students will join us by asking for a refund of their share of Harvard's payment to MIT's ROTC program. Toward this end, we have already collected over 500 undergraduate signatures on a refund petition that we will present to President Rudenstine today.
Jeff A: Redding '96 is gay rights project leader for the Civil Liberties Union of Harvard. Dennis K. Lin '94 is co-chair of the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Association.