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MIT must fight discrimination by ROTC

The time has come to do something about a tradition of formalized discrimination on campus that threatens the hard-won pluralism of the MIT community. We refer to the stated and enforced policy of discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual students practiced by the Reserve Officers Training Corps.

ROTC offers MIT undergraduates a variety of significant material and vocational rewards, such as leadership training, job opportunities, and four years of financial support. But it does not offer these rewards to all MIT undergraduates alike, on a free and non-discriminatory basis. ROTC is constrained in its scholarship program by current US military policy, which states: "The presence in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual conduct, or who by their statements demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission."

The Defense Department's Personnel Security Research and Education Center, in two recent reports, concludes otherwise. Lesbian and gay soldiers have better-than-average service records in the US military, which should, PERSEREC recommended, consider a phased integration of lesbian and gay people into the military (as has already occurred in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy, West Germany and the Netherlands). Nonetheless, ROTC persists in systematically denying its benefits to an entire segment of the MIT undergraduate population. A truly pluralistic and multicultural community can not tolerate discrimination against any of its members, let alone against an entire class of persons in its very midst.

A growing number of colleges, universities and faculties have started to take a stand against ROTC's discriminatory practices. The law school faculty at the University of Iowa has refused ROTC the use of its buildings as long as ROTC maintains its discriminatory policy. The student-faculty senate at the University of Minnesota began a lobbying effort to alter ROTC policy. The student senate at Northwestern University called for the withdrawal of university support unless the policy is changed. The faculty of the University of Wisconsin, by a 386-to-248 vote, asked the regents of the University to sever contracts with ROTC "until those programs no longer discriminate on the grounds of sexual identity." And both Harvard and Yale refused to allow ROTC back on campus because ROTC was found to violate their policies on non-discrimination. (Harvard students who wish to enroll in ROTC may do so at MIT, which is thus left to occupy the moral low ground of Cambridge.)

How long will MIT support -- to the tune of $500,000 a year -- a program that openly and shamelessly discriminates against some of its own students regardless of their academic strength, financial need, physical fitness, citizenship, mental stability, or desire to participate? MIT officially "does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, handicap, age or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, employment policies, scholarship and loan programs, and other Institute-administered programs and activities. . . ." The heterosexuality requirement imposed by ROTC on its participants clearly mocks the spirit, if not the letter, of MIT's non-discrimination clause. It narrows academic freedom. And it interjects a poisonous element of enforced secrecy into what ought to be an atmosphere of open and uninhibited exchange among members of the MIT community.

We, the undersigned, are women and men; faculty, students, and alumni; caucasians and people of color; Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews; lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and heterosexuals; and we are united in an effort to persuade the MIT Corporation to sever its ties to ROTC by June 1994 unless ROTC ceases to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. (By June 1994, all current officer candidates will have been commissioned as will those high school seniors now planning to finance their MIT education by enrolling in ROTC.) We are launching a campus-wide campaign in order to accomplish this purpose. We believe we can succeed, but only if we have the help of the community to make MIT a truly open and pluralistic community.

Imtiyaz Hussein '91->

Randy Mackie G->

David M. Halperin->

Professor of Literature->

and 19 other faculty and students->