Keep ROTC Off Campus

The Crimson Staff

Harvard students in the military's Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program have not been able to take their classes on campus since 1969. That year, under pressure from anti-war student protestors and the Faculty, the University agreed to discontinue the program. Since then, cadets have had to travel to MIT to take their classes. Up until 1994, Harvard helped subsidize the MIT program, but now the University doesn't even do that; the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays violates Harvard's anti-discrimination policy.

All this would change if a group of Undergraduate Council representatives have their way. A bill drafted by Aurelio Torre '00 would have the council express its support for bringing the program back to campus and create a task force to work with the administration for ROTC's return. The proposal has prompted a flurry of controversy in council ranks, overwhelming the uc-general email list with heated debate, and a vote on the bill has been postponed until next week. There are compelling arguments on both sides of the issue; but on balance, we hope the council defeats the bill. Programs that discriminate against any students don't deserve a place at Harvard, and they certainly don't deserve the council's endorsement.

It is true that ROTC provides financial assistance for many students, and in general the University shouldn't do anything to keep students and much-needed scholarship money apart. It is also true that Harvard's refusal to participate directly in ROTC may discourage some high school students interested in the program from applying to Harvard. But the College's compromise is a reasonable one--MIT is not so far away. In this case, the University is keeping opportunities open to students--only a bus ride along the river--and maintaining its principles.

Nor does Torre's argument that the ban on ROTC stigmatizes students in the program carry much weight. ROTC cadets walk among us every day. They have been no notable incidences of cadet-harassing, as far as anyone can tell. On the contrary, the celebration of a cadet's successful completion of training is held at Memorial Church.

There is no compelling reason to sacrifice the University's non-discrimination policy for the sake of convenience for the ROTC. The council should reject the bill.

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