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Bettiker refuses to repay tuition money to US Navy

By Reuven M. Lerner

Robert L. Bettiker '90, who was discharged in January from the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps because of his homosexuality, has asked the Secretary of the Navy that he not have to repay $38,612 in tuition charges to the US government.

Both Bettiker and David Carney, a senior at Harvard College, were placed on leave of absence last fall, when they told their commanding officers that they were gay. On Jan. 31, Bettiker and Carney were discharged from NROTC and were asked to reimburse the Navy for their tuitions, despite the recommendation of <>

a local review panel to the contrary.

Bettiker sent Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett a letter on Tuesday indicating that he did not intend to repay his tuition. He reminded Garrett of the review board's recommendation and reaffirmed his commitment to serve in the Navy following his graduation this spring.

The letter was "a way to appeal" the secretary's decision, Bettiker explained. He said he got the idea from discussions with his commanding officer, Captain Robert W. Sherer (USN). At the time of Bettiker's discharge, Sherer had recommended that "since he is not suitable by reason of homosexuality for enlisted service, I recommend he <>

be disenrolled without service obligation or recoupment."

Sherer said that he had seen Bettiker's letter, and added that he and Bettiker had spoken about it "a while back." He explained that the letter challenges the Navy's decision on the matter.

Dean for Undergraduate Education Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65 supported Bettiker's actions, saying that "from everything I know . . . he is justified in taking the stand he does." MacVicar, who is the senior administration official in charge of the ROTC program, criticized NROTC for making it "not at all clear when cadets are asked to sign whether they are or they aren't gay." She added that she did not "understand the logic" in discharging someone who "has such a strong record as a cadet."

Sherer argued that other options existed for Bettiker, even if the Navy rejected his argument. He said, "Robb has appealed directly to the secretary. As I have speculated before, he could go <>

to court." Sherer refrained from commenting on whether he would argue his original opinion in support of Bettiker, or the official NROTC stance that he is now expected to represent, if the case went to court.

While he is optimistic that "the Navy will drop the demands that I pay," Bettiker has already begun consulting an attorney from the Lambda Defense Fund, a homosexual rights advocacy group. He does not expect the Navy to sue him for the tuition, since "it would be very bad for the Navy to take me to court . . . the publicity would probably not be good for them."

MacVicar said that "personal support for the facts of his case is the minimum he is due," and pledged to work with Bettiker and NROTC to find a solution.

Sherer said that this is not the first time someone has written a letter of protest to the secretary. He added, "this happens frequently when some injustice has occurred in the field of promotions or other matters relating to . . . personnel records and careers." He noted that the Secretary of the Navy authorizes the deletion of information from officer records, and thus is often asked to change personal records.

This is also not the first letter specifically addressing Bettiker's case. US Rep. Gerry E. Studds (D-MA) recently wrote to protest the Navy's policy against homosexuals.

UA Council passes resolution

The Undergraduate Association Council took a strong stand against the current ROTC ban on homosexuals at last night's council meeting, passing a resolution calling for strong action. According to UA President Manish Bapna '91, the UA Council plans to send a letter to President Paul E. Gray '54 and Provost John M. Deutch '61 asking for an explanation as to how ROTC is allowed to exist on campus despite its violation of Institute regulations prohibiting discrimination.

Bapna noted that there were many Institute and ROTC officials present at last night's meeting, including MacVicar and Sherer, as well as a number of ROTC students. He said that while most in attendance "respect what happens" to the ROTC program at MIT, a large number "did not agree with the policies, and they would like to see them changed."

Most people at the meeting were not entirely in favor of removing ROTC from MIT, Bapna said. He also said that forcing ROTC off campus would not end the military's discriminatory policy, but would simply give the same problem to another school.

Bettiker said that while he "supports the idea of MIT putting pressure on ROTC to change its discriminatory policies, I do not like the idea of kicking ROTC off campuses as being the only alternative." He suggested that perhaps MIT students could attend ROTC at another school in the area, so that "no one is really hurt."