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Students petition to allow gays in ROTC

By Annabelle Boyd

On March 6, Defeat Discrimination at MIT, a group of students, alumni, faculty and staff, began its petition campaign to encourage "the MIT Corporation to sever its ties to [the Reserve Officers Training Corps] by June 1994 unless ROTC ceases to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation." Symbolically, the petition drive opened during Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian Awareness Days (BGLAD).

DDMIT collected 1500 signatures from its booth in Lobby 10 last week, and is presently taking its petition to living groups, according to DDMIT member Joe B. Melvin '92. DDMIT "hopes to collect the signatures of more than half of the MIT undergraduate student body, as well as a significant portion of the staff and graduate students," he said.

According to DDMIT member Imtiyaz Hussein '91, each member of the MIT faculty will be contacted personally by DDMIT for their support.

"It is too soon to say how big [the petition campaign] will be, but we have every reason to believe it will be quite successful," said David M. Halperin, a professor of literature and member of DDMIT.

DDMIT hopes to use the petitions to pressure MIT's "unique relationship" with the military, Melvin said. "MIT is the jewel in the crown of the military-industrial complex. DDMIT hopes to do something at MIT that sends a signal to the nation. George Bush isn't listening to us now, but he may later," Halperin said.

DDMIT intends to use the petitions as the "basis for a campaign before the faculty" to end the Corporation's support of ROTC at MIT, Halperin said. According to DDMIT member Randall L. Mackie G, DDMIT hopes that the resolution stated on the petition will be put before a faculty vote. The faculty has the power to reach the Corporation, Halperin added.

Path to protest

According to Halperin, there has been "a lot of talk about the [discriminatory ROTC policy] on the MIT campus for a long time." DDMIT formed as the result of "a number of conversations that [Halperin] had been having with students and alumni." The idea for the petition drive "got going because it's been happening at so many other campuses nationwide."

DDMIT's drive is devoted, most specifically, to altering the 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."

According to Mackie, "If [the discriminatory policy] is left to the military, they won't do anything about it. Despite the two reports they have commissioned which are supportive of [the abilities] of gays in the military, they continue to keep the [discriminatory] policy and show no signs of changing."

"Because of its [military connections], MIT has the power to bring this issue into the spotlight," he added.

There has been no conflict between DDMIT and ROTC, Hussein said. In fact, Hussein, who polled many ROTC cadets and midshipmen in Lobby 10, said approximately 80 percent of the ROTC students supported the right of gays to participate in the military.