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Is Harvard Giving Up on Its ROTC Promises?

By Wendy M. Seltzer

It is beginning to look as though Harvard administrators and some activists have capitulated on their once hard line stand against anti-gay discrimination in the military's ROTC program.

The latest evidence of retreat was a statement in last week's Faculty meeting by President Neil L. Rudenstine postponing to the MIT program used by Harvard's ROTC students.

"We have been working toward a resolution that would both affirm our policy of non-discrimination and maintain ROTC as an option for students attending Harvard," Rudenstine said.

But that may be presidential code for a delay that may violate the timetable of a 1992 report endorsed by Rudenstine and approved by the Faculty last spring.

"If the Department of Defense policy remains in effect, Harvard should stop paying the MIT fee beginning with the [Class of 1998]," says the report which prepared by a committee chaired by pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba '53 .

In the past, University officials have said there was nothing wrong with a delay because the report says the Class of 1998 provision is "not a rigid requirement."

But in the very same paragraph, the report says:

"This flexibility, however is not meant to be a license for delay. It ought only to be invoked if substantial progress has been made and a change seems likely within a reasonable time period."

But Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, a member of the Verba committee, says he trusts recent assertions by Rudenstine that "substantial progress" has been made in talks with MIT over the ROTC fee paid by Harvard.

"I don't have any reason to question what the president said, "Jewett said.

And Jewett and other top administrators continue to deny the University is backpedaling.

Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles says the Verba report allows the decision deadline to be postponed. Both he and Rudenstine say they wanted to allow the early admission candidates to make their decisions with confidence in the scholarship funding.

"A withdrawal from the program would be irreversible," Knowles says. "We think it would be improper to exclude the entering Class of 1998 at this point."

In the fall, Rudenstine and others indicatedthat President Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell"compromise--which slightly eased restrictions ongays in the military--might re-open the debateover cutting ties to ROTC. But all indicationshave been that the status of negotiations withMIT--and not "don't ask, don't tell"--are behindthe present delay.

That delay, Knowles insists, does not representa reversal.

"'Turnaround' is absolutely an inappropriatenoun," Knowles adds. "The positions that thepresident is taking is absolutely consistent withthe Verba report."

But neither the administrators nor the Verbareport are consistent with the objection to ROTCthat officials expressed in 1990. Then, theFaculty Council said the presence of ROTC studentson campus contradicts University policy againstdiscrimination.

An Abdication?

In the spring of 1990, the campus was outragedby the story of David E. Carney '89. As anundergraduate, Carney served in the Navy ROTCprogram. In early 1990 Carney then doing graduatestudies at Oxford University, informed themilitary that he was gay.

The military moved to give him a dishonorabledischarge and asked him to return $51,000 intuition provided him by the ROTC program.

In May 1990 and angry Faculty Council said ithad "strong objections to [current] discriminatorypolices" of ROTC.

The full Faculty then gave the Department ofDefense a two year ultimatum to make "progress inresolving the issues of discrimination.' Otherwisethe Council statement said, the college wouldsuspend the participation of its students in ROTC.

These were not words of compromise.

And in June, then-President Derek C. Bok chimedin. He wrote a letter to then Secretary of DefenseRichard Cheney urging the military to reconsiderits policies.

"As you can imagine," the president wrote, "itis difficult for us to reconcile ROTC with ourpolicies of nondiscrimination."

In the past year, However, it has apparentlybecome easier for the University to stomach justsuch a reconciliation.

Comments made this week by Provost Jerry R.Green vividly illustrated the distinction thatHarvard administrators and faculty have lined upbehind: the University won't stand againstdiscrimination on its campus--it just won't pay tosupport it.

"If you got a scholarship from the ViolinSociety of America subject to the fact that youcontinue to take violin lessons and the violinsociety discriminated against certain kinds ofpeople," Green said, "we wouldn't have any problemwith that."

"We might not like that but we wouldn't stopyou," Green said. "If Harvard has to pay a certainshare of those violin lessons then they're goingto have a problem."

This is the same straddle used by the Verbareport, which was released in 1992 and endorsed bythe Faculty last year in the wake of theinvitation to Gen. Colin L. Powell to speak atCommencement.

That report which suggested the cessation ofpayment by Harvard to the MIT program representeda significant break from what the Faculty Councilsaid in 1990.

In 1990, the Faculty Council ultimatum was thatHarvard no longer accept ROTC scholarship money.

That change, ROTC cadets said at the time,would have effectively ended the participation ofHarvard students in the program.

The Verba report payed lip service to theproblems of discriminating against gays in themilitary. And in approving the report facultymembers billed their vote to approve the report'srecommendations as a firm stand againstdiscrimination.

And those statements from the Faculty appear tobe enough to satisfy at least some gay campusleaders.

Dennis K. Lin '93-94 co-chair of Bisexual , Gayand Lesbian Students Association, which has in thepast been critical of Harvard's acceptance of ROTCscholarship funds says he "totally agree [s] withProvost Green."

If Harvard were not giving any money to ROTC,Lin says, he would still object to thediscrimination but would not mind Harvard'sacceptance of the scholarships.

A Difficult Possibility

Top administrators have yet to deal publiclywith the possibility that if Harvard doesn't chipin for MIT's ROTC program, its students may not beable to participate.

These administrators, however, appear to begambling that an arrangement with MIT can beReached.

Green says such an arrangement would not beunusual. He notes that while MIT does notcontribute money to Harvard's academic programs,its students are permitted to crossregister at theUniversity.

"We try to be good neighbors," he says.

The delay in action on the Verba report couldprovoke angry student reaction.

Lin, the BGLSA co-chair says his group wouldlike to see College make a decision quickly,"hopefully to cut all ties with ROTC."

The current situation is unacceptable, Linsays.

"It's almost as if Harvard is paying todiscriminate against its own students," he says.

While he says that BGLSA was not planning anyprotest now, Lin promises there might be one "ifthey decide to continue indefinitely" at the endof the year.

`More Likely to Change'

Robin L. Mitchell '94 company commander forNavy ROTC says it would ultimately be beneficialfor Harvard to continue to allow students toparticipate in the program.

"I think that, if anything the people thatgraduate from Harvard might be more open-mindedand more likely to change things," Mitchell says.

She also says the scholarship money should bean important consideration.

"I know a lot of students really want to go toHarvard, really want to serve their country andreally need the money," she says.

Mitchell adds that Harvard doesn't have to givefinancial aid packages to students who take ROTCscholarships.

Lin also says that the financial considerationsmake the question difficult.

"I just think there are better ways to givestudents money," he says.

And even if the University resolves the ROTCissue the debate about the Defense Department'spolicy on gays may simply move to other fronts.

Mitchell, the Navy ROTC captain, raises onesuch possibility.

"Does Provost Jerry Green mind taking all ofthe millions of dollars that the defensedepartment gives to the University for research?"Mitchell asks.Crimson File PhotoPresident NEIL L. RUDENSTINE

In the fall, Rudenstine and others indicatedthat President Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell"compromise--which slightly eased restrictions ongays in the military--might re-open the debateover cutting ties to ROTC. But all indicationshave been that the status of negotiations withMIT--and not "don't ask, don't tell"--are behindthe present delay.

That delay, Knowles insists, does not representa reversal.

"'Turnaround' is absolutely an inappropriatenoun," Knowles adds. "The positions that thepresident is taking is absolutely consistent withthe Verba report."

But neither the administrators nor the Verbareport are consistent with the objection to ROTCthat officials expressed in 1990. Then, theFaculty Council said the presence of ROTC studentson campus contradicts University policy againstdiscrimination.

An Abdication?

In the spring of 1990, the campus was outragedby the story of David E. Carney '89. As anundergraduate, Carney served in the Navy ROTCprogram. In early 1990 Carney then doing graduatestudies at Oxford University, informed themilitary that he was gay.

The military moved to give him a dishonorabledischarge and asked him to return $51,000 intuition provided him by the ROTC program.

In May 1990 and angry Faculty Council said ithad "strong objections to [current] discriminatorypolices" of ROTC.

The full Faculty then gave the Department ofDefense a two year ultimatum to make "progress inresolving the issues of discrimination.' Otherwisethe Council statement said, the college wouldsuspend the participation of its students in ROTC.

These were not words of compromise.

And in June, then-President Derek C. Bok chimedin. He wrote a letter to then Secretary of DefenseRichard Cheney urging the military to reconsiderits policies.

"As you can imagine," the president wrote, "itis difficult for us to reconcile ROTC with ourpolicies of nondiscrimination."

In the past year, However, it has apparentlybecome easier for the University to stomach justsuch a reconciliation.

Comments made this week by Provost Jerry R.Green vividly illustrated the distinction thatHarvard administrators and faculty have lined upbehind: the University won't stand againstdiscrimination on its campus--it just won't pay tosupport it.

"If you got a scholarship from the ViolinSociety of America subject to the fact that youcontinue to take violin lessons and the violinsociety discriminated against certain kinds ofpeople," Green said, "we wouldn't have any problemwith that."

"We might not like that but we wouldn't stopyou," Green said. "If Harvard has to pay a certainshare of those violin lessons then they're goingto have a problem."

This is the same straddle used by the Verbareport, which was released in 1992 and endorsed bythe Faculty last year in the wake of theinvitation to Gen. Colin L. Powell to speak atCommencement.

That report which suggested the cessation ofpayment by Harvard to the MIT program representeda significant break from what the Faculty Councilsaid in 1990.

In 1990, the Faculty Council ultimatum was thatHarvard no longer accept ROTC scholarship money.

That change, ROTC cadets said at the time,would have effectively ended the participation ofHarvard students in the program.

The Verba report payed lip service to theproblems of discriminating against gays in themilitary. And in approving the report facultymembers billed their vote to approve the report'srecommendations as a firm stand againstdiscrimination.

And those statements from the Faculty appear tobe enough to satisfy at least some gay campusleaders.

Dennis K. Lin '93-94 co-chair of Bisexual , Gayand Lesbian Students Association, which has in thepast been critical of Harvard's acceptance of ROTCscholarship funds says he "totally agree [s] withProvost Green."

If Harvard were not giving any money to ROTC,Lin says, he would still object to thediscrimination but would not mind Harvard'sacceptance of the scholarships.

A Difficult Possibility

Top administrators have yet to deal publiclywith the possibility that if Harvard doesn't chipin for MIT's ROTC program, its students may not beable to participate.

These administrators, however, appear to begambling that an arrangement with MIT can beReached.

Green says such an arrangement would not beunusual. He notes that while MIT does notcontribute money to Harvard's academic programs,its students are permitted to crossregister at theUniversity.

"We try to be good neighbors," he says.

The delay in action on the Verba report couldprovoke angry student reaction.

Lin, the BGLSA co-chair says his group wouldlike to see College make a decision quickly,"hopefully to cut all ties with ROTC."

The current situation is unacceptable, Linsays.

"It's almost as if Harvard is paying todiscriminate against its own students," he says.

While he says that BGLSA was not planning anyprotest now, Lin promises there might be one "ifthey decide to continue indefinitely" at the endof the year.

`More Likely to Change'

Robin L. Mitchell '94 company commander forNavy ROTC says it would ultimately be beneficialfor Harvard to continue to allow students toparticipate in the program.

"I think that, if anything the people thatgraduate from Harvard might be more open-mindedand more likely to change things," Mitchell says.

She also says the scholarship money should bean important consideration.

"I know a lot of students really want to go toHarvard, really want to serve their country andreally need the money," she says.

Mitchell adds that Harvard doesn't have to givefinancial aid packages to students who take ROTCscholarships.

Lin also says that the financial considerationsmake the question difficult.

"I just think there are better ways to givestudents money," he says.

And even if the University resolves the ROTCissue the debate about the Defense Department'spolicy on gays may simply move to other fronts.

Mitchell, the Navy ROTC captain, raises onesuch possibility.

"Does Provost Jerry Green mind taking all ofthe millions of dollars that the defensedepartment gives to the University for research?"Mitchell asks.Crimson File PhotoPresident NEIL L. RUDENSTINE

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