The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 23.0°F | Fair

Discriminatory programs have no place at Institute

We, the members of Defeat Discrimination at MIT, were pleased to learn of Officer Candidate Susan Raisty's support for "equal treatment of all people, including homosexuals and women, in the Armed Forces." ["Elimination of campus ROTC program would accomplish little and harm many," March 13] We also share deeply in her concern about any MIT students who might be adversely affected in the event that our efforts to eliminate discrimination by Reserve Officers Training Corps were to eventuate in the elimination of the ROTC scholarship program itself from the MIT campus. Raisty's letter, however, contains a good deal of misinformation which should not be allowed to mislead members of the MIT community into withholding their full support form our petition campaign.

Raisty states that "ROTC often provides the only way for many excellent students and individuals to attend MIT" (with the exception of excellent lesbian, bisexual, and gay students, of course). But, according to an unreleased Report to the Dean for Undergraduate Education on the MIT-ROTC Relationship, dated Oct. 6, 1989, "it is not the neediest students who suffer the most when ROTC scholarships are withdrawn. These students will have their full need met by MIT without much additional support from their parents." Raisty is also wrong to claim, "without [ROTC] scholarships, many would be unable to attend" MIT. On the contrary, the Report to the Dean concluded that a "detailed look at the students who have been withdrawn from the ROTC scholarship program during the past two years shows that students usually do not withdraw from the Institute as a result of loss of ROTC support."

Raisty assumes that our campaign to end discrimination on campus by ROTC, if successful, would still have little or no impact on ROTC policy nationwide. But the Report to the Dean points out that "MIT has had an exceptional role in the evolution of nationwide ROTC programs and policies." MIT is therefore in a privileged position to influence national military policy. With increased power comes increased responsibility.

Despite Raisty, it is not callous to oppose scholarship programs that are restricted to students on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. If MIT refused to accept a scholarship program for deserving but poor white Protestants sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan, would Raisty still complain that MIT was treating its students as "sacrificial pawns" in the service of a "publicity stunt"? ROTC is not the KKK, but the analogy holds in one limited respect. The ROTC scholarship program, restricted as it is to heterosexual students, helps 6.4 percent of MIT undergraduates at the cost of promoting discrimination against sexual minorities throughout MIT. Although it may benefit some students, a restrictive scholarship program harms the student body as a whole by creating invidious distinctions between entire segments of the student population and by furthering existing prejudice, injustice, and discrimination against currently stigmatized minority groups. Such restrictions have no place in a free and open community of minds.

Christopher Smith '91->

Joseph Powers '92->