Not much should be made of the Republican Club's recent dining-hall petition about ROTC. As I talked to a number of students in Mather it was clear that many did not understand what the petition sought or what the Corporation has recently decided. Most believed the petition expressed no more than general support for the ability of Harvard students to participate in ROTC.
But that, of course, is no longer at issue. The arrangement approved by the Corporation preserves to Harvard students exactly the some opportunities to participate in ROTC as they now have. The only change is that an alumni group will arrange for the annual payment of $135,000 to MIT that Harvard now makes directly.
This solution was arrived at with the aid and tireless support of several Harvard gay and lesbian groups. As far as I know, no gay or lesbian group opposes it, and many of us are relieved that a way was found to continue allowing students to participate in ROTC while reaffirming Harvard's anti-discrimination policy.
This is not good enough for the Republican Club, however. Their petition actually calls for Harvard to resume its direct $135,000 subsidy to MIT with Harvard's own money. They evidently want Harvard to decline the alumni offer and use Harvard money to affiliate itself officially with ROTC.
Whatever else may be said about this initiative, its timing is certainly odd. At the moment when the new Republican Congressional majority is telling us that our governing institutions should stop spending our money for purely ideological gestures that don't produce practical results, our own Republican Club wants Harvard to "tax" its students $135,000 in tuition money so it can "spend' it to express some unspecified (and unasked for) institutional support for the military, while gaining no practical benefit for Harvard students whatsoever. Wouldn't it make more practical and ideological sense for the Republican Club to show its support by contributing directly to the ROTC alumni fund itself? Better yet, why not offer to help raise money from undergraduates for the ROTC fund? They might find that even some of us who are gay or lesbian would be willing to contribute as individuals to the continued opportunity of Harvard students to participate in ROTC.
The Republican Club's petition will come to nothing, of course, as they surely know. President Rudenstine's report on ROTC revealed that Harvard has long believe it should not have to pay anything to MIT for ROTC, well before that payment became associated with the issue of discrimination. Having finally succeeded in freeing itself from that obligation, with no loss of opportunity for its students, Harvard is hardly going to hand it back for nothing. But regular Crimson readers know that the Republican Club is a troubled organization, and it evidently thinks it needs a catchy issue to reestablish some shred of respectability. Attempting to reopen the at-last resolved ROTC issue may seem an unpromising choice, but taking a shot at gays and lesbians is the current popular right-wing issue for such purposes. In that the Republican Club at least shares in irrelevance to genuinely important issues so common to the student right. John Patterson The author is a non-resident tutor at Mather House.