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Elimination of campus ROTC program would accomplish little and harm many

I am writing this letter to urge members of the MIT community to consider carefully before signing the petition for the elimination of the Reserve Officers Training Corps program from MIT's campus. This proposal, suggested by Imtiyaz Hussein '91, Randall L. Mackie G, and Professor David M. Halperin ["MIT must fight discrimination by ROTC," March 6] is no doubt well intentioned. However, it is little more than a publicity stunt and would only damage the MIT community and the prospective students who would be unable to attend MIT because of the elimination of ROTC.

I personally support equal treatment of all people, including homosexuals and women, in the Armed Forces. However, eliminating ROTC from MIT wouldn't accomplish this goal. Neither MIT, ROTC, nor even the services themselves can change this policy. Only Congress can change the laws so that homosexuals would be allowed to serve and women would be granted equal combat designation.

People do not join ROTC to be part of a "heterosexuals-only" organization. They choose ROTC out of desire to serve their country, and the need to become independent and self-reliant. Several also chose ROTC for financial support. With the cost of an MIT education nearing $16,000 per year for tuition alone, and with yearly tuition hikes well over the rate of inflation, ROTC often provides the only way for many excellent students and individuals to attend MIT. Of the roughly 290 cadets and midshipmen enrolled in the Army, Air Force, and Navy programs, about 245 are financially supported by ROTC. Without these scholarships, many would be unable to attend.

The MIT community would be adversely affected by the loss of these students who would never be able to attend because of financial considerations. It would be a sad loss indeed, for these are people who are superb students, who desire to be self-reliant, who don't want to burden their families, and to whom attending MIT is so important that in exchange they are willing to serve four or more years. Suggesting that MIT is "the moral low ground of Cambridge" because it allows ROTC to support such students seems callous and suggests that Hussein and his peers don't care about these students, thought they claim to care so much for all segments of the MIT community. Denying these students the opportunity because not all can yet participate is like not allowing anyone to eat because some are starving.

From what I gather, the rationale for eliminating ROTC is the following: "The Armed Forces would suffer greatly without the yearly pool of officers from MIT, Harvard, Tufts, and Wellesley. Thus, they would ask Congress to change the policy against homosexuals. Also, eliminating ROTC from MIT would generate much publicity, and hopefully the members of Congress would respond by changing the laws more quickly."

However, only about 65 officers from the MIT program (including Harvard, Tufts, and Wellesley) are commissioned each year, a tiny percentage of the thousands of officers who are commissioned nationwide. The Armed Forces would hardly suffer, but MIT would be greatly affected. If ROTC were eliminated, hundreds of students would be prevented from attending MIT and from serving their country; they'd be the victims of this publicity stunt. It is inexcusable to use these deserving students as sacrificial pawns.

I suggest that instead of signing a petition to eliminate ROTC or supporting such a proposal, that you write to your congressman or congresswoman about your beliefs and ask him or her to propose and support a bill that would grant equal rights for homosexuals and women in the Armed Forces.

Susan Raisty '92->

Army ROTC->