Funds at Risk Due To ROTC Policy

Universities that don’t allow Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs on campus could lose millions in federal funds under legislation passed by the House of Representatives last week.

The measure also strengthens the 1996 Solomon Amendment, under which the Pentagon has threatened to block federal grants to schools that limit military recruiters’ access to students.

Members of Congress singled out Harvard for rebuke, sharply criticizing a 1969 vote by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to ban ROTC on campus.

Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., a former member of the Harvard Business School (HBS) faculty and an alum of both HBS and Harvard Law School (HLS), assailed his alma mater in a speech on the House floor Tuesday.

“This bill…might just as well be called the Harvard Act—because it squarely addresses the scandal of Harvard University and other schools banishing ROTC and military recruiters rom campus, while cashing Uncle Sam’s checks for billions of taxpayer dollars each year from the Department of Defense and other federal agencies fighting the global war on terror,” said Cox, the fourth-ranking member of the House Republican leadership.

Under the legislation, Harvard could lose all funding from the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and a handful of other federal agencies unless the University allows the military the option of establishing an ROTC unit on campus. Currently, Harvard students participate in ROTC programs at nearby MIT. The University does not fund the program directly, instead letting anonymous private donors pick up the tab.

But Kevin Casey, Harvard’s senior director of federal and state relations, wrote in an e-mail that the Pentagon has “not—to my knowledge” requested permission from the University to set up a ROTC station on campus.

“We believe our recruitment policies are in compliance with federal laws and regulations,” Casey wrote. “It is not clear if [Harvard’s] policies would be required to be revised if the [House] proposal were adopted.”


The bill passed by the House last week needs the approval of the Senate by the beginning of next year in order to become law. Political scientists who closely track Congress agreed that the Senate is likely to vote in favor of the measure.

“The lopsided House vote would suggest the bill has a good chance of making it through the Senate,” Professor of Government Eric Schickler wrote in an e-mail. In the House, 343 members—220 Republicans and 123 Democrats—voted for the measure. Two Republicans, 78 Democrats and one independent voted against it.

“It strikes me as an important appeal to conservative constituencies that Republicans in the House, Senate and White House will want to have on the books before election day,” wrote Associate Professor of Government Barry C. Burden in an e-mail.

“If some Democrats slow the bill in the Senate, they will only be blamed by Republicans for being hostile to the military in a time of war. For that reason I expect Senate Democrats to allow the vote to happen if workload permits,” Burden wrote.

But according to Associate Professor of Public Policy David C. King, “what we see in the House bill will not be the final say.” Senators will likely limit the broad powers granted to the defense secretary under the bill, King wrote in an e-mail.


The Faculty’s 1969 decision to remove ROTC from campus came in protest of the Vietnam War, but Harvard soon after allowed students to travel to MIT to participate in the program. In April 1990, the Faculty passed a resolution pledging to end cooperation with ROTC because the military does not allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. Three years later, the Faculty voted to stop paying for MIT to train Harvard’s ROTC students. The Faculty also recommended that the University bar ROTC from holding its commissioning ceremony for Harvard cadets in the Yard.

But administrators suspended all three Faculty decisions, keeping the Harvard-MIT consortium alive. Since 1995, however, the University has not directly provided the money for students who cross-register in MIT’s ROTC program, instead allowing a few anonymous philanthropists to donate the funds needed to keep the arrangement going.

Since taking office, University President Lawrence H. Summers has expressed his support for ROTC on multiple occasions—including a November 2001 appearance in an Army videotape promoting the program.

He opposes the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but Summers in the past has repeatedly criticized the ROTC funding arrangement Harvard has with MIT. Speaking to the Undergraduate Council in 2002, Summers called permitting the anonymous alumni to fund the program a “uncomfortable, back-door policy inconsistent with transparency.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has sought to gain broader access to Harvard’s law students. HLS requires that employers who use the school’s official recruiting resources sign an agreement pledging not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The Pentagon has refused to sign the pledge.

In 2002, after the Pentagon threatened to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to Harvard under the Solomon Amendment, then-HLS Dean Robert C. Clark granted military recruiters an exemption from the nondiscrimination pledge.

The House’s action Tuesday came amidst a flurry of litigation challenging the Solomon Amendment. In November, U.S. District Court Judge John C. Lifland, a 1957 HLS graduate, ruled that the statute is constitutional, but questioned the Pentagon’s insistence that schools waive nondiscrimination requirements for military recruiters.

Lifland’s ruling came in a suit filed by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), a network of 20 law schools challenging the Solomon Amendment. Harvard is not a member of FAIR, but a majority of the HLS faculty filed a friend-of-the-court brief on FAIR’s behalf in January, arguing that the school was in compliance with the amendment even before Clark granted the Pentagon a waiver in 2002.

“I regard the [House] legislation as a concession that we read the current statute correctly,” Professor of Law Janet Halley wrote in an e-mail.


The House measure is the latest development in the effort to bring ROTC back to Harvard’s campus.

David Clayman ’38, chair of Advocates for Harvard ROTC, leads a 1700-member group of faculty, alumni and supporters who are urging the University to offer the military greater support.

“I don’t like the idea of Harvard being forced by legislation to do what they should be doing voluntarily,” said Clayman, who said he never joined the armed services because he could not pass the vision test, but worked as a civilian employee for the Navy.

Although Clayman lamented the need for the House legislation, he said he supports the bill.

“This is something the University should do, and if they don’t do it, they don’t deserve the funding,” Clayman said.

Clayman noted that Congress—not the Pentagon—is responsible for the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He said that gay rights advocates who oppose a military presence on campus “have made a statement that is as useful as a hiccup in the wind.”

“Using ROTC as a hostage…serves no purpose,” Clayman said. “Why try to attack the very organization you’re trying to join?”

—Staff writer Daniel J. Hemel can be reached at