Committee studies ROTC
By Irene C. Kuo
The issue of sexual orientation remains the biggest area of conflict between MIT and Department of Defense policy, according to the chair of an ad hoc committee that spent a year investigating MIT's relationship with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
The committee recommended in its October 1989 report that the Institute take "every reasonable step" to convince the military services to accept non-discrimination policies based on sexual preference.
At the time, a minority felt that if MIT could not convince the DOD to change the policy within five to seven years, MIT should consider kicking ROTC off campus, while others were convinced that the need for the program was so "compelling" that it should stay even if the conflict were not resolved.
These recommendations were passed to a presidential committee on MIT-ROTC relations which will devise methods to deal with them.
Because the military benefits from MIT-trained leaders, Associate Dean for Student Affairs Robert M. Randolph, a member of the presidential committee, said that MIT was in a position to influence the military by prescribing a change in ROTC policy, but he did not think MIT should force ROTC off campus.
"MIT and people in the military will have to work together to change it. Personally, I do not believe that MIT will not achieve anything by throwing ROTC off campus [because] there are plenty of schools which would like to have a ROTC program," he said.
"We should not leave the training of officers to institutions <>
that practice homophobia," he continued.
Professor J. Kim Vandiver SM '75 of the Department of Ocean Engineering, chair of the ad hoc committee, speculated that the plight of Robert L. Bettiker '90, a Navy ROTC student who was asked to repay three year's worth of tuition after he revealed he was gay, would spearhead dialogue between MIT and ROTC on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Although the ad hoc committee no longer meets, "it would be unanimous [in its opinion] that Bettiker not be asked to repay," Vandiver said. "His review board made that recommendation, but the Secretary of the Navy did not agree. There is no evidence that Bettiker was hiding anything. There are no grounds for government to recoup."
"Fortunately, the committee wrote its report before Bettiker came forward with his case," Vandiver continued. "We had the benefit of a year's worth of a time. In a crisis situation, you have to respond overnight."
Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56, member of the presidential committee, later confirmed that the issue of sexual orientation would be discussed at its next meeting.
Committee stresses dialogue
The ad hoc committee, appointed by Dean of Undergraduate Education Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65, discovered that the vast majority of officers in the United States today come from ROTC programs and not military academies.
A majority of the committee subscribed to the view that "ROTC is a unique American institution that is the envy of most democracies," and that most countries do not come close to matching the educational level of American military officers.
Furthermore, the majority regarded ROTC as an opportunity for the university to influence the military. A minority, however, believed ROTC was an instrument of the military.
The committee summarized that since local ROTC commanders could not unilaterally change DOD policy, the interests of MIT students would be best served by an "atmosphere of direct, open and honest communication."
For MIT-controlled offices or programs to unilaterally take discriminatory action against ROTC programs because of differences over policies would "undermine the spirit of cooperation that helped MIT mold ROTC policies in the past."