The Undergraduate Council's recent recommendation to Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 to move the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) commissioning ceremony at Commencement off campus is misguided and overwrought. We understand the council's reasons: leaving it on campus could be construed as a violation of the University's non-discriminatory policy. Yet holding the ceremony off campus ignores the importance of ROTC to participants' college experience.
The debate over ROTC at Harvard dates back to 1969. In that year, during the height of the Vietnam War, a group of Harvard students and faculty protested ROTC's presence on campus because of its ties to the military. As a result, ROTC was pushed off campus, and Harvard students who wanted to participate in it commuted to MIT to do so.
In this decade, the protests shifted to different grounds. Students and faculty alike lamented the military's policy on homosexuals, and a 1990 report by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences called on the administration to sever ties with the ROTC program because it discriminated against gays and lesbians.
Yet a compromise approved last year fully and fairly brought an end to the ROTC debate. The Harvard Corporation approved a new relationship between the University and ROTC that effectively ended Harvard's financial ties to the program by appointing independent alumni to administer funding.
We agree that the military is not fair in its treatment of homosexuals. It offers a wishy-washy "don't ask, don't tell" policy that has created an atmosphere where rumors can be treated as fact.
Yet Harvard has already separated itself from the funding for ROTC, and ROTC students have long gone to MIT for their training. Individual ROTC members should not be punished further because of their group membership alone. Having the commissioning ceremony on campus is an appropriate memorial to the hard work the cadets have done over four years. The ceremony does not amount to an endorsement of the program's discrimination.
To move the ceremony off campus would be to deprive the ROTC participants of an honor they have rightfully earned. We urge Dean Lewis to veto the proposal in order to maintain the spirit of the original compromise.
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