Lee noted that the debate over ROTC gradually evolved to center around the controversial ban on gays in the military.
“It wasn’t until later in the debate that the focus shifted to the U.S. military’s discriminatory policies toward gays and lesbians,” wrote Lee in an email. “I think that shift changed a lot of people’s minds, including my own.”
Lee described the ensuing debate as both messy and chaotic. Some argued that the ROTC ban conflicted with Harvard’s anti-discrimination policy. Others said that it was “economic discrimination” to force students with ROTC scholarships to travel to MIT for training.
The UC ultimately withdrew its support from ROTC’s return to campus. However, the issue would drag on intermittently for years, until Harvard finally allowed the ROTC to open a campus office in 2012—once the military revoked “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy that forced gay members of the military to remain in the closet.
“That was the beginning of a conversation that took several decades to win,” said Kripke, referencing the recent defeat of the policy.
Kripke noted that her experiences at Harvard taught her the importance of being true to herself.
“Part of what we were doing was practicing living our lives openly, honestly, and unapologetically,” she said.
For Dermody, activism in the gay community at Harvard was empowering, despite the struggles she faced.
“It had its hard moments, because shoot, we had to go to school, and we had to deal with that too, but it also had its great moments, so many incredible and powerful and human moments, that it definitely affected my path afterwards,” she said.
She now remembers Harvard fondly.
“I love Harvard,” Dermody said. “For all that adolescent angst and struggling with your issues, going through all your changes, with all of that, I really loved Harvard.”
—Staff writer Quynh-Nhu Le can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Brianna D. MacGregor can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @bdmacgregor.